The Vatican summit on the protection of minors finishes with no clear action plan
“The summit has not given signs that the Roman Church will become transparent and honest about its sins and shortcomings”, says Leonardo De Chirico, Vatican expert and evangelical pastor in Rome.
VATICAN CITY · 27 FEBRUARY 2019 · 16:46 CET
The Vatican finished its four-day summit on the protection of minors announcing that it will soon issue a new law on child protection for Vatican City State and guidelines for preventing sexual abuse of minors.
At the conclusion of the summit, conference moderator, Father Federico Lombardi, declared that Pope Francis will soon publish a motu proprio (document issued by the Pope on his own initiative, which has legal effect) “on the protection of minors and vulnerable persons”.
Additionally, “the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will publish a vademecum, or handbook, with the tasks and obligations of bishops”, Lombardi said.
Another measure that will take place over the next months is “the creation of task forces specifically to help local churches in need of help to solve problems and develop initiatives in their bishops’ conferences and dioceses”.
The summit gathered around 200 priests from all over the world, as well as victims and journalists, and it ended with a mass on Sunday February, 24.
FRANCIS: “SERIOUS SCANDAL IN THE CHURCH”
Speaking following the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis reflected on the abuse of minors and the conclusions of the summit.
“The problem of sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy has long been a serious scandal in the church and in public opinion, both because of the dramatic suffering of the victims and because of the unjustifiable lack of attention to them and the covering up of the perpetrators by people in authority within the Church”.
LACK OF A PRACTICAL COMMITMENT
However, representatives of different groups of victims and political sectors in Europe have already warned about the lack of practical and concrete commitments in the summit conclusions.
“For Synods of Bishops (the last two ones on the family in 2014-2015 and on youth in 2018), the Vatican called all bishops to Rome for two months (family) and one month (youth) to discuss the topics”, recalled Leonardo de Chirico, a pastor in Rome, Vatican expert and Vice President of the Italian Evangelical Alliance.
Now, “the meeting on the abuse scandals only lasted 4 days and only the Presidents of the National Bishops’ conferences were invited. It is perhaps an indication that the issue is not as paramount for the Vatican as it says it is”, he points out.
FRANCIS: “WE WANT THE CHURCH TO BE CREDIBLE AN RELIABLE”
The Pontiff explained to those who gathered at St Peter’s Square during the Angelus that they had “listened to the voices of the victims, we have prayed and asked forgiveness from God and from the victims”.
“We have become aware of our responsibilities, of our duty to do justice in truth, to radically reject any form of abuse of power, conscience and sexuality”, he added.
Francis emphasised that they “want the Church to once again be absolutely credible and reliable in her mission of service and education for children according to the teaching of Jesus”.
“It is by working together, with all people of good will and all the elements and positive forces of society, in all countries and at an international level, that the very serious scourge of violence against hundreds of millions of children, girls and boys, all over the world, can be combated to the very end, in all its forms”, the Pope concluded.
DE CHIRICO: “THE ROMAN CHURCH HAS SEVERAL AN SEVERE PROBLEMS”
De Chirico believes that the Pope speech “is a way of saying: the Roman Church has a problem but the problem is bigger than the Roman Church”.
“The abuses scandals have indicated that Rome has several and severe problems: a culture of self-protection of the institution, a tendency to cover up problems, a huge problem with the disordered and sinful sexual life of the clergy”, he says.
“Of course the problem is bigger than the Roman Church, but is it not another indication of the attempt to remove the Catholic church from the spotlight?, De Chirico asks.
THE THEOLOGICAL SCENARIO
“Do not forget to pray for me”, Francis asked at the end of his speech, during the closure of a summit which focused on exhorting the Catholic hierarchy, without questioning the legitimacy of its structure.
“I think the summit has not tackled the theological issues at stake, such as the view of the priest as as “alter Christus” (another Christ). This view inflates the authority of the priest and creates a situation of theological, psychological and cultural dependence”, the Vice President of the Italian Evangelical Alliance says.
According to De Chirico, another theological mistake that “the meeting has not changed” is the doctrine of the indefectibility of the church, that is, the idea that the church as such does not make mistakes. This “gives a presumption of perfection and nurtures an attitude marked by moral arrogance”.
“The meeting has not given signs that the Roman Church will become transparent, humble and honest about its sins and shortcomings. Moreover, it has not tackled the wrong mandatory celibacy imposed on priests”.
CARDINAL PELL, CONDEMNED
Coinciding with the end of the Vatican summit on the protection of minors, the Melbourne court has condemned Cardinal George Pell, considered to be the former number three of the Vatican.
It is the first sentence in history against a member of such rank in the Catholic hierarchy, for raping a 13-year-old boy and abusing another child. One of the victims died in 2014 due to an overdose, and the other preferred to remain anonymous.
The Vatican press office has reported that Francis has confirmed the ban on Pell to publicly exercise the ministry.
Despite stressing their respect for Australian justice, the Vatican has insisted on waiting for the outcome of the appeal “remembering that Cardinal Pell has insisted on being innocent and has the right to defend himself to the last degree”.