AP

Vatican sex abuse summit seeks new culture of accountability

Feb 22, 2019, 7:08 AM
Pope Francis arrives at the opening of the second day of a Vatican's conference on dealing with sex...
Pope Francis arrives at the opening of the second day of a Vatican's conference on dealing with sex abuse by priests, at the Vatican, Friday, Feb. 22, 2019. Pope Francis has issued 21 proposals to stem the clergy sex abuse around the world, calling for specific protocols to handle accusations against bishops and for lay experts to be involved in abuse investigations. (Giuseppe Lami/Pool Photo via AP)
(Giuseppe Lami/Pool Photo via AP)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Cardinals attending Pope Francis’ summit on preventing clergy sex abuse called Friday for a new culture of accountability in the Catholic Church to punish bishops and religious superiors when they fail to protect their flocks from predator priests.

On the second day of Francis’ extraordinary gathering of Catholic leaders, the debate shifted to how church leaders must acknowledge that decades of their own cover-ups, secrecy and fear of scandal had only worsened the sex abuse crisis.

“We must repent, and do so together, collegially, because along the way we have failed,” said Mumbai Cardinal Oswald Gracias. “We need to seek pardon.”

Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich told the 190 bishops and religious superiors that new legal procedures were needed to both report and investigate Catholic superiors when they are accused of misconduct themselves or of negligence in handling abuse cases.

He said lay experts must be involved at every step of the process, since rank-and-file Catholics know far better than priests what trauma the clergy sex abuse and its cover-up has caused.

“It is the witness of the laity, especially mothers and fathers with great love for the church, who have pointed out movingly and forcefully how gravely incompatible the commission, cover-up and toleration of clergy sexual abuse is with the very meaning and essence of the church,” Cupich said.

“Mothers and fathers have called us to account, for they simply cannot comprehend how we as bishops and religious superiors have often been blinded to the scope and damage of sexual abuse of minors,” he said.

Francis summoned the bishops for the four-day tutorial on preventing sex abuse and protecting children after the scandal erupted again last year in Chile and the U.S. While the Vatican for two decades has tried to crack down on the abusers themselves, it has largely given their bishops and superiors who moved them around from parish to parish a pass.

Cupich called for transparent new structures to report allegations against superiors, investigate them and establish clear procedures to remove them from office if they are guilty of grave negligence in handling cases.

He proposed that metropolitan bishops — who are responsible for other bishops in their geographic area — should be tasked with conducting the investigations, with the help of lay experts. The metropolitan bishop would then forward the results to the Vatican.

It wasn’t immediately clear how Cupich’s proposals squared with those being studied by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at large.

Those procedures, which called for a code of conduct for bishops and a third-party confidential reporting system, ran into legal snags last year at the Vatican, which blocked U.S. bishops from voting on them in November.

At the time of the blocked vote, Cupich proposed his “Metropolitan model,” which he articulated Friday from the privileged position as an organizer of Francis’ summit.

More than 30 years after the scandal first erupted in Ireland and Australia, and 20 years after it hit the U.S., bishops and Catholic officials in many parts of Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia still either deny that clergy sex abuse exists in their regions or play down the problem.

Francis, the first Latin American pope, called the summit after he himself botched a well-known sex abuse cover-up case in Chile last year.

Gracias, the Indian cardinal, opened the session by saying bishops must work together to address the problem because it is not confined to a particular region. He told the conference that it is not acceptable for bishops in Africa or Asia to say the problem of clergy sex abuse doesn’t exist in their regions or that “it’s a just a problem for the USA or Europe or Australia.”

“This, brothers and sisters, is just not true. I dare say there are cases all over the world, also in Asia, also in Africa,” Gracias said.

But Gracias’ prime-time speaking slot drew criticism, since the Indian church isn’t known for its proactivity in combatting clergy sex abuse. Gracias himself has been publicly criticized for his record.

“Why was Gracias allowed to speak at the papal summit? He is a poster boy for the lack of accountability of church leaders, especially in developing countries,” said Anne Barrett Doyle of the online group BishopAccountability, which tracks the abuse scandal.

But it appeared that the Vatican may have chosen as speakers precisely those cardinals whose own national churches have not confronted the scandal openly. On the summit’s opening day, for example, the keynote speaker was Filipino Cardinal Luis Tagle.

BishopAccountability says, based on public reporting and criminal prosecutions, it appears that no priests sexually abuse children in the Philippines, a scenario Barrett Doyle says is patently unrealistic. Tagle has said cultural taboos in the Philippines often prevent people from coming forward when they have been abused.

Victims have turned out in droves on the sidelines of the summit to demand greater accountability from the church, saying it has for decades put its own interests over those of the victims who have been harmed.

“They have this systematic process of covering up, moving along, transferring and not reporting,” said Tim Lennon, president of the U.S.-based survivor group SNAP.

German survivor Matthias Katsch said victims are beyond angry.

“We are really fighting for truth and justice for the survivors,” he said.

Irish Archbishop Eamon Martin said the summit had given many pause for thought.

“We are beginning to realize that perhaps there is something about the way we did things as Church, about the way we are as Church, that this issue really throws up for us. It really makes us ask questions about ‘who are we?’ ” Martin said.
___
More AP coverage of clergy sex abuse at https://www.apnews.com/Sexualabusebyclergy

Today’s Top Stories

AP

A female bison and calf are seen near the Yellowstone River in Wyoming's Hayden Valley, on Wednesda...
Mark Jones

2nd visitor in 3 days gored by Yellowstone National Park bison

In less than a week, two visitors to Yellowstone National Park have been gored by bison. Park officials say to stay at least 25 yards away from a bison.
22 hours ago
Travelers wait in for a TSA security check at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles,...
DAVID KOENIG ASSOCIATED PRESS

Pre-pandemic sized crowds descend on US airports for holiday

TSA is reporting crowds of pre-pandemic size are traveling this Independence Day.
22 hours ago
Residents stand in front of building destroyed by missiles in Ukraine...
FRANCESCA EBEL Associated Press

Russian missiles kill at least 19 in Ukraine’s Odesa region

The Ukrainian president's office said three Kh-22 missiles fired by Russian bombers struck an apartment building and a campsite.
22 hours ago
Ketanji Brown Jackson takes the oath for the Supreme Court....
MARK SHERMAN Associated Press

Jackson sworn in, becomes 1st Black woman on Supreme Court

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, will be sworn as the court's 116th justice Thursday, just as the man she is replacing, Justice Stephen Breyer, retires.
2 days ago
The Supreme Court is pictured. The court just limited the EPA...
MARK SHERMAN Associated Press

Supreme Court limits EPA in curbing power plant emissions

The Supreme Court on Thursday limited how the nation's main anti-air pollution law can be used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
2 days ago
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Madrid, ...
DARLENE SUPERVILLE and ZEKE MILLER Associated Press

Biden says transatlantic alliance has adapted to new threats

Biden's comments came at a press conference in Madrid at the conclusion of the annual meeting of NATO leaders and after he attended a summit with the Group of Seven advanced democratic economies in the Bavarian Alps.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Vatican sex abuse summit seeks new culture of accountability