The lang-awaited and unprecedented Meeting “The Protection of Minors in the Church,” referred to colloquially as the “Vatican Abuse Summit” is underway, gathering Church officials and the heads of the world’s national bishops’ conferences to discuss the global problem of sexual abuse in the Church. Pope Francis called this meeting late last year, in the wake of the US cases of Theodore McCarrick and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, as well as the serious abuse and cover-up scandals in Chile and other nations around the world.
The Vatican has set up a website to chronicle the meeting, as well as to share the talks and speeches given at the meeting. Here is a link to the website.
Here is an excerpt from the introductory address of Pope Francis to the assembly:
In light of the scourge of sexual abuse perpetrated by ecclesiastics to the great harm of minors, I wanted to consult you, Patriarchs, Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, and Religious Superiors and Leaders, so that together we might listen to the Holy Spirit and, in docility to his guidance, hear the cry of the little ones who plead for justice. In this meeting, we sense the weight of the pastoral and ecclesial responsibility that obliges us to discuss together, in a synodal, frank and in-depth manner, how to confront this evil afflicting the Church and humanity. The holy People of God looks to us, and expects from us not simple and predictable condemnations, but concrete and effective measures to be undertaken. We need to be concrete.
Some words by keynote speaker Cardinal Luis Tagle:
If we want to be agents of healing let us reject any tendency that is part of worldly thinking that refuses to see and touch the wounds of others, which are Christ´s wounds in the wounded people. Those wounded by abuse and the scandal need us to be strong in faith in this moment. The world needs authentic witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus, who draw close to His wounds as the first act of faith. I want to stress: this is an act of faith.
Finally, although is not present in Rome, Newark Cardinal Joseph Tobin wrote a striking reflection on the witness of the Church in light of these scandals. I encourage you to read it. Excerpt:
Today the Church grapples with another septic wound, one that has also been compounded by the perennial ignoring of the voices of people who have been wounded and pushed aside by the Church — whether those sexually victimized as children or as adults. In society, we have seen a paradigm shift in the rise of the #MeToo movement. That shift is one from disbelief to belief when it comes to the stories of survivors. The Church’s focus has shifted as well, from the actions of perpetrators to the harm their behaviors — and their enabling — have caused in so many lives. Something has been taken from victims of abuse that the Church can never repay on our own. The void of injustice that looms before us is deep and vast.
This kind of dialogue requires an abundance of courage, because authentically listening has real implications. It is not something we should expect to be easy or pleasant. As with the Christian roots of anti-Semitism, we find ourselves confronted by our blind spots, our prejudices and real carnage. But we have already witnessed the undeniable ways in which listening to the voices of abuse survivors has forever changed our Church. As these changes take hold, we will see that, strangely enough, we have been transformed to a far greater degree into the Church that Pope Francis has challenged us to become.
For instance, we are called to humility. Authentic humility is not a lofty idea or aesthetic choice. It is living with the crushing weight of the knowledge and reality of your failures. We are called to be a merciful Church, and mercy isn’t merely a beautiful, benevolent concept. Authentic mercy is something that, like love, is reflected to others once we ourselves have been shown it. The Church of the future will have little choice but to be humbler and more merciful in its treatment of others, because our only hope is to be shown mercy, by our own people and the rest of the world, for our failures.
Let us all join in prayer for the success of the meeting, for healing and justice for the abused, and for an end to all sexual abuse within the Church and everywhere.
God of endless love,
ever caring, ever strong, always present, always just:
You gave your only Son to save us by the blood of his cross.
Gentle Jesus, shepherd of peace,
join to your own suffering the pain of all who have been hurt
in body, mind, and spirit by those who betrayed the trust placed in them.
Hear our cries as we agonize
over the harm done to our brothers and sisters.
Breathe wisdom into our prayers,
soothe restless hearts with hope,
steady shaken spirits with faith:
Show us the way to justice and wholeness,
enlightened by truth and enfolded in your mercy.
Holy Spirit, comforter of hearts,
heal your people’s wounds
and transform our brokenness.
Grant us courage and wisdom, humility and grace,
so that we may act with justice
and find peace in you.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Image: Adobe Stock
Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland, having worked for many years in Catholic publishing. He’s a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He’s active in his parish and community. He is a founding editor for Where Peter Is.