Summit with an unclear agenda offers elusive suggestions, vague assurances

Despite plenty of talk about responsibility, accountability, and transparency, there was very little discernible interest at the Vatican summit in adopting means of making bishops directly accountable to the faithful.

Pope Francis celebrates a Mass attended by the heads of bishops' conferences from around the world on the last day of the four-day meeting on the protection of minors in the church at the Vatican Feb. 24, 2019. (CNS photo/Maria Grazia Picciarella)

(ROME — 24 February 2019) The high-level gathering of senior Churchmen on clerical sexual abuse is over. We still don’t have a clear idea of what it was about. We don’t really even have a good idea of what it was.

Officially styled, “Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church”, the four days saw organizers and participants describe it variously as a “journey of exploration” — by Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane — a “pilgrimage” — by Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta — as almost anything except as what it was supposed to be: a business meeting at which senior leadership would be officially appraised of an urgent crisis, the head man would put them on notice, and the stakeholders would be given not vague assurances, but real undertakings against which progress in the address and remedy of the crisis could be measured.

Instead, many of the talks explicitly treated their assigned aspect of the problem as something else: Responsibility as awareness — especially self-awareness and particularly of one’s own woundedness — from Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, on Day One; Accountability as collegiality (and synodality) on Day 2; Transparency as “traceability”, Cardinal Reinhard Marx on Day 3.

Cardinal Marx addressed the theme of transparency in the threefold key of reliability — or “traceability” in his word — comprehensibility, and administration: transparency, in other words, means well-managed information — and good management of information means effective sharing of it. He did offer four practical measures: a re-thinking of pontifical secrecy; transparent norms for the Church’s judicial processes; publication of abuse statistics; and finally, the publication of judicial proceedings.

There was also talk over the four days, of clarifying and strengthening a legal instrument Pope Francis introduced and has apparently been somewhat reluctant to use: As a loving mother, which makes negligence, especially in matters of child protection, grounds for removal from office. Despite that talk, and Cardinal Marx’s proposals notwithstanding, there was very little discernible interest in adopting means of making bishops directly accountable to the faithful.

Doing that — i.e. finding ways to give the laity a responsible role in structures of accountability — would require searching study of Church history and a kind of “out of the box” thinking, for which the participant Churchmen rarely showed interest or ability. The archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Blase Cupich, said, “We must unswervingly incorporate broad lay participation into every effort to identify and construct structures of accountability for the prevention of clergy sexual abuse.” In a footnote — he urged readers to pay attention to the footnotes — he nevertheless reminded his readers:

It is recognized that lay professionals with specialized knowledge may be duly authorized to carry out an investigation, but all investigations must remain under the appropriate ecclesiastical authority. See e.g., CIC, c. 274 §1 (“Only clerics can obtain offices the exercise of which requires the power of order or the power of ecclesiastical governance.”); see also CIC, cc. 1405, 1717. This, however, does not impede the rights and duties of the laity in making their opinion known to the pastors and the rest of the Christian faithful on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, cf., CIC, c. 212 §3.

Accountability was the broad theme on Day 2 of the meeting, for which an address by the archbishop of Mumbai, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, set the tone, as CWR reported:

The focus was on accountability: primarily — not to say, almost exclusively — on bishops’ accountability to each other. “As we take up our collegial and collective sense of accountability and responsibility,” the archbishop of Mumbai, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, said in the Friday morning address that introduced the theme for the day, “we will inevitably encounter a certain dialectic. For our collegiality does indeed express the variety and universality of the People of God, but also the unity of the flock of Christ.”

“It cannot be disregarded that dealing with the topic of abuse in the right way has been difficult for us in the Church,” said Cardinal Gracias, “for various reasons,” though he left largely unexplored the differences in the ways in which the abuse crisis has been difficult for bishops, whose failures enable abusers, and for victims, who are gravely and irreparably harmed and injured by the abuse the bishops have enabled by their failures of governance.

“We as bishops also bear responsibility for this,” Cardinal Gracias went on to say. “For me, this raises the question: do we really engage in an open conversation and point out honestly to our brother bishops or priests when we notice problematic behavior in them?” he asked. “We should cultivate a culture of correctio fraterna, which enables this without offending each other, and at the same time recognize criticism from a brother as an opportunity to better fulfill our tasks.”

Abuse survivor and victim-advocate Virginia Saldanha, who was in Rome during the meeting at the invitation of the Ending Clergy Abuse group and participated in numerous panels and events around the meeting, told Catholic World Report, “On reading his address I wondered whether he got mixed up with collegiality,” which, she said, “is more about bishops supporting each other through the crisis as ‘brothers’ in the ‘old boys club’, and accountability — which is his responsibility to be answerable regarding abusive priests under his care — to his people in the diocese.”

Saldanha has been an outspoken critic of Cardinal Gracias, who is accused of mishandling abuse in the Archdiocese of Bombay. The BBC recently reported on a case from 2015, in response to which the archdiocese issued a statement defending Cardinal Gracias’ handling of the matter.

“I had questioned Cardinal Oswald Gracias’ position on the organizing team of the summit back in November 2018, coming from my own experience of his handling abuse cases in his own diocese, to which I belong as well,” Saldanha said.

Saldanha also said there were portions of Cardinal Gracias’ address she found encouraging. “The fourth point made at the end is a summons to courage,” she said, “and is heartening to read: ‘[B]e willing to pay the price of following God’s Will in uncertain and painful circumstances.’ I hope it will be pursued in faith and sincerity.”


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About Christopher R. Altieri 102 Articles
Christopher R. Altieri is a journalist, writer, and editor based in Rome, Italy. He spent more than a dozen years on the news desk at Vatican Radio. He holds the PhD from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and is the author of The Soul of a Nation: America as a Tradition of Inquiry and Nationhood.

26 Comments

  1. Nothing will happen.

    It will be business as usual. The perpetrators and their cohorts looking out for each other.

    Gutless are the members of that meeting and clueless. Christ was abandoned by the wayside.

    What can one expect when only the members of bishops conferences are present.

    I think these people should have left their cassocks and church regalia at home. Business suits would have been more apt.

  2. These men are a disgrace to Christian masculinity. The “journey of exploration” psycho-babble from Coleridge indicates emasculated viceroys who live to gratify each other.

    The men named are as Jesus prophecied: Salt that has lost its savor, good for nothing but to be thrown on the ground and trampled underfoot.

    These man need prayers that they might be conformed to Christ.

    • I’m convinced the time for prayer is past for these miscreants. We’ve been praying for them for decades, and getting only more lies and coverups of their all-expenses-paid homosexual fun fest in return. I’m convinced they fit the description St. Paul gave us in Romans 1…. reprobates. God will have to clean this up Himself it seems, or perhaps it is His will that this continues; note the signs of the times. But as for me and my house, we will never give them another penny.

  3. The respective presidents of the conferences and the Eastern patriarchs could have saved their plane fare and done this by a video conference…for whatever this synod (was this EVEN a synod?) was worth. Heck, even a specially-produced DVD would have done it!

  4. The Pope & Bishops have and had many opportunities to address this homosexual issue. Because they fail to clean their own respective houses, they should not be surprised at the severity and longevity with which God will sterilize away the impurities within His Bride.
    These losers, excuses of manhood, will not be happy campers.

  5. Given that not much happened at the synod, why did Francis quash the bishop’s conference in Dallas last year?

    What was the purpose of that action?

    • 1. It seems to me there is something plainly deliberate about all this. Someone on some level sees what is happening and is facilitating it. These are not dumb people, if it is clear to us, what does that say about them. I still have great hope in our very good and astute Bishops who may have remained quiet for a reason. Someone is trying to bring down our church on purpose.
      I know some Bishops who are OUTSTANDING!! And I thank them. I know where I stand in prayer and true action.

      2. I also would like to say a word about the other group of victims, the families of the seminarians, the grandmothers, parents cousins, brothers and sisters proud of their family member in seminary, who then was abused by power from those who say they are “in persona Christie”. I have heard of many who left the seminary because it was run by “those” people. What a sad thing for the families. No one has said much about them. Maybe that is why so many have left the church. I stand with my Holy Church and those who are true. Amen

    • Steve,
      if you mean the Baltimore conference where a last minute message from Francis halted a vote by the US bishops, well, the reason we can now deduce was a feinting action to stop real progress to fix real problems in the US Catholic Church. And the pope’s action stopped the spineless US bishops in their tracks. They caved like a cheap camera. This pope is part of the problem, a big part. Francis plays for keeps and he is a man with an agenda.
      McCarrick’s ouster was crumbs from this pope’s table for the peasants in America. Nothing more. We are still at the same position prior to the Baltimore conference.
      This is planned. All of it.
      Cupich, Wuerl, Tobin, McElroy, et al, are all smiling. Bet on it.

  6. The Bishops who Pope F likes around him, and chooses to speak at his theater productions, talk like they are at a Deepak Chopra enlightenment conference.

    Pope F May rest assured of three things:

    – We don’t need the Pope to tell us that sexual abuse of minors is horrendous.

    – Your Bishop and Cardinal pals all appear to be post-Christian viceroys of the St. Galen sex revolution theater group.

    – Cardinals like Mueller and Burke and Sarah and Zen and Carfarra and Brandmuller and Bishops like Chaput and Schneider and Strickland and others like them are serious Christian shepherds…and you are not.

    • “The Bishops talk like they are at a Deepak Chopra enlightenment conference”. Chris this deserves award for humor and accuracy.

  7. Does anyone wonder why people have been and likely will still be leaving the church? Some sort of action needs to be taken with the offending priests and even those with the potential, like with Uncle Ted, in order to get rid of a lot of the problem. Maybe then, the folks will believe what they are told. We are all sinners but ordaining deeply sinful men to lead us needs to be stopped.

  8. All my Catholic brethren, this rot will never end unless we make it. No dictator has ever given up power willingly, and the episcopate in our Church is filling that role now. Inviting lay participation in this farce is mere busy-work for children, which is what they in their arrogance consider us. It must stop, and to do that the root must be torn out. What is that root? At its foundation, Satan; but in practice, homosexuals. It is an unforgivable crime that our Church “leaders” allowed so many homosexuals into the priesthood and even religious orders that they can nearly never be reclaimed. They didn’t neglect 1 Timothy 3, they ignored it willingly. But the horse has left the barn now, so we are left with little to fight for our Church with. Except… money. The universal lubricant that makes the world go ’round, and keeps these loathsome creatures in power, living the high life in sin that God called “abomination.” It’s a cartel, a homo-mafia of reprobates. But, never give up faith in Christ! Remain Catholic, even if staying at home on Sundays. We know how to pray, and don’t need a “priest” who lied to get ordained to “minister” to us and thus via fraud, is probably a fraud spiritually. So, the only weapon we have is poverty, which frankly our leaders could use a healthy dose of anyway. Give NO money or anything of value to the Church–period. If you have the Church in your Will, change it, and tell your pastors and bishops why. Only by catastrophic financial failure will the truth ever come to our Church again, and you will ONLY know for sure that this has happened when you learn that more than half of the priests, bishops, and cardinals have been excommunicated and sacked–including their pensions (which requires a change in the CIC), leaving the RCC gasping for priests to fill their rolls. But, a true Peter will have to be elected first, or none of this will happen. I hate doing this, but it is the truth and I have already begun this path. BTW: did Ted McCarrick get to retire with his pension? Apartment and servants?

    May God save our Church for our children!

    • One can withhold money, though many diocesan appeals are structured to limit the use of the funds to specific programs. One can also donate to one’s local parish by dedicating funds to a specific purpose of just buying something they need. As for staying away from Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and His body, the Church, I say that I will not sacrifice my salvation for the dubious goal of destroying God’s Church out of spite for its leaders.

      • Unfortunately, I no longer trust claims of keeping funds where we designate them. An order from a bishop would change that in an instant. I don’t blame you for continuing in the sacraments. That comment was aimed only at those who might not or do not, and there are plenty out there thanks to the liars in power. Just remember: these malefactors are actively destroying you, and your faith if they can, and they know that once true faithful Catholics abandon the Church, they will easily back-fill it with homosexuals who will benefit from new “liberalization” decrees from the “See of Peter.” That comment was not made in spite, as you claim; it is the only means of change we have, like it or not. Frankly, I believe the RCC is finished as a locus of Godly salvation. It is simply too riddled with homosexuals and the infestation is not even being discussed by Rome, so nothing will change except the names of those grave sinners who are promoted. But, we have to try even if the Church is ordained to fall into heresy or worse. To do otherwise would place our souls in peril.

  9. “Ecce ipsi peccatores, deiecisti eos in ruinas!” Not all of them are wicked of course, but the good ones are so few. For us in USA this is so disappointing, knowing as we know, that Card. Wuerl knew about McCarrick, and that Card Mahony neglected many abuse cases in LA, even Cupich as Rector of the Josephinum College and later on as bishop of Rapid City did more of the same. “Sanus et pinguis est venter eorum et latrabunt ut canes. Domine de abyssis terrae libera nos.”

  10. Sandro Magister reported Feb 24 the MCarrick and Zanchetta scandals [they adhere to the Pontiff like annoying glue] weaken his authority and credibility. Magister is correct regards the latter but only insofar as the incredulous dwindling faithful now mostly expressing their anguish on the Internet. As to the former Sandro says the Pontiff is likened to an Am Lame Duck president. The perceptive journalist is well off the mark on this one. The Pontiff retains full power as long as he’s ensconced in the Chair of Peter with a circle of Mini Me’s. Most effectively in power however while retaining historically unmatched capacity to manipulate and advance an all inclusive radical doctrine currently the sanitizing of adult clerical homosexual behavior. This just demonstrated with the greatest ease over a hapless silent body of world Hierarchy. Many impugn the Internet chastise their Catholic brothers for complaining out loud at times with vehemence about all this. Silence [unlike Cardinals Burke and Brandmuller’s admonition to the Bishops] and prayer recommended. At the moment I wonder if these thought unseemly cries are the last brave voice for Justice.

    • Thank you, Father. If one reads protestant theology from the 19th century, one thing is clear about their position on Rome and the papacy. I scoffed at it for many years, but perhaps God used them–protestants–to sound the alarm to the world, including us. Read the literature, including their systematics, the RCC is described as the Harlot of John’s Revelation. I’m seeing this now for what it is.

  11. When did priests, bishops and cardinals begin to talk in the way they do now.
    “We will inevitably encounter a certain dialectic”.
    Please…don’t make me puke….you over-educated fraud. There are maybe ten stand-up men now holding the office of bishop in the US. The rest of them are useless, corrupted Frankenstein’s monsters.
    I am done with them. They can rot in Hell.

    • Indeed, we see our pope and leadership clearly now. Dialectic is a Hegelian term, which is of the Marxist school, which is atheist and which has vowed to destroy the Christian Church. There’s no longer any question of who we are dealing with.

  12. In the early 1960s, Mary, Mother of Jesus appears to four young (11 and 12 years) girls at a place called Garabandal, in northern Spain and announces a Warning is coming to the world. She relates one other secret that will take place. She relates a third secret as well but it is conditional and does not have to happen at that time. The Warning will be: “Like a punishment, for the just and the wicked alike. For the just, to bring them closer to God and for the wicked, to announce to them, that time is running out…”4
    In 1981, Mary, Mother of Jesus, visits six young teenagers (1 preteen) at Medjugorje, Bosnia Herzgovina, and announces a Warning is coming but now claims 10 secrets, events are going to unfold without a doubt. The first event: “It is a Warning. It has to be seen… this has to shake us up, so the world will start thinking… but to prove there is a God… the first Warning will be self-explanatory.
    Since 1987, Mary, Mother of Jesus appears to Pedro Regis in Anguera, Brazil and explains a Warning is coming with more details. “The Calvary of humanity will begin on a Friday, but the victory of God will come afterwards…” “The day is coming when mankind will have a great chance to repent. God will show a great sign and mankind will have no explanation.”6 The Worldwide Warning will come upon all mankind starting on a Friday.
    Many prophecies are recorded in the book and web site called, “After The Warning To 2038”. It is an accumulation of prophecies from Venerable, Blessed, and Canonized saints confirming the Warning and the 10 major “Storm” events that God intends to unfold on this planet to take us out of this chaos and bring us to the peaceful triumph of her Immaculate Heart.
    A ‘Pre-Warning,’ was revealed by the Virgin Mary when she appeared at Garabandal, Spain in the early 1960s, of an important ‘small Synod’ that will precede ‘The Warning.’ The call of a Synod of Bishops to Rome, February 21–24, 2019, is unique because it addresses the Sexual Abuse Crises in the Catholic Church. Mother Nieves Garcia reveals important information in this video below, regarding events that will precede the Warning. Are we getting close to the Warning from God ? After this meeting it may seem so.
    Watch video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V392zrQYwRQ

  13. Master stroke! So, now His “Holiness” suddenly decides to open the secret archives about pope Pius XII!!! Oh my! Curious? No. He has successfully interrupted the news cycle with this announcement, and media as well as Catholics will now follow this story rather than the most important news story: the Homo-Mafia running, and ruining our Church. Since the pope and his cronies refused to acknowledge the infestation of homosexuals–claiming it was only pedophiles–preying upon young seminarians and children, they simply could not have that narrative continue. Ergo, the distraction. DON’T FALL FOR IT.

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