Yesterday marked the beginning of a historic four-day summit being held at the Vatican focusing on the Catholic Church's ongoing abuse crisis.
The summit is not open to the public, although portions of the event are being live-streamed. Pope Francis opened the event with a call for the clergy to deliver "concrete and effective measures" to deal with the crisis.
"May the Virgin Mary enlighten us as we seek to heal the grave wounds that the scandal of pedophilia has caused," Francis said.
Francis called sexual abuse a "scourge" and he urged those in attendance to "hear the cry of the little ones who plead for justice."
There are 190 church leaders attending the meeting, and each of the four days is devoted to a different theme. Themes include responsibility, accountability, and transparency.
You would think that maybe those claiming to represent God and his will would already have wanted to be responsible and accountable, especially with children, but hey, I guess God is kind of lax about such things.
“Our lack of response to the suffering of victims, even to the point of rejecting them, and covering up the scandal to protect the perpetrators and the institution, has injured our people,” said Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle from the Philippines.
Thanks for that brilliant insight, Luis. We really needed that called out.
The Vatican has not invited any victims to speak at the meeting, but audio testimony from five victims was played yesterday. The recordings included one victim stating they experienced the "total loss of the innocence of my youth."
Today, the second day of the summit, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the archbishop of Mumbai, spoke to the assembly. He remarked on his experiences with victims of clerical abuse. He described the victims as feeling helpless and bitter. They “could not relate normally with others.” He said they were “distracted” and, in some cases, their psyches seemed “destroyed.”
“The sexual abuse of minors and other vulnerable people not only breaks divine and ecclesiastical law, it is also public criminal behavior,” Gracias said.
Apparently, it has taken until the year 2019 for this message to finally get around to being delivered to these pious men. And rather than being hand-delivered by God, it came to them only after decades of public scrutiny and mounting pressure from victims and many legal battles. God works in mysterious ways, I guess!
I should probably add that Cardinal Gracias himself is also being criticized for previous failures in handling cases of abuse. The BBC published a report earlier this week detailing two cases where Gracias was alerted to abuse and failed to respond in any meaningful way.
These are the people claiming divine warrant for their actions. They have claimed moral superiority and to know the mind of God from the beginning.
They certainly make a good case for atheism. After all, what kind of omnipotent and all-caring god would want these men as his representatives?
This summit, church officials have already admitted, is not meant to deliver the church's ultimate way of dealing with this problem. Instead, they have said it is an early step in a long process.
I am not overly optimistic that the church will do the right thing. If it took them this long just to figure out that they should have some rules about not molesting children, then I have trouble expecting much from them here.