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Cardinal O’Malley urges Italian Catholic bishops to ‘make things right’ for abuse survivors

May 26, 2022 Catholic News Agency 1
Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome, Italy, May 26, 2022 / 10:54 am (CNA).

Cardinal Seán O’Malley urged Italian Catholic bishops on Wednesday to work for a “pastoral conversion” in their approach to survivors of sexual abuse by clergy.

The head of the Vatican’s abuse commission made the appeal in a video message played on the third day of the bishops’ plenary assembly in Rome, taking place on May 23-27.

“We have nothing to fear by telling the truth. The truth will set us free. Acknowledging people’s stories of abuse, listening to survivors, and committing to working together is not easy, but I can tell you after 40 years that it is the only way,” the archbishop of Boston said.

He went on: “Sometimes, and perhaps rightly so, it seems there are no adequate steps we can take to make things right for those who have been abused.”

“It is perhaps the most difficult part of being a pastor: knowing that our listening and our efforts at healing and justice will likely fall short of what survivors are looking for. It’s a sober reminder that ultimately only God’s grace can make whole what sin has broken.”

O’Malley’s message came as the Italian bishops discussed whether to hold a national inquiry into abuse.

Italian associations joined together in February to coordinate a movement against abuse in the Catholic Church in Italy. The network, which calls itself #ItalyChurchToo, is pushing the bishops to carry out an independent investigation into clerical sexual abuse in Italy over the last 70 years.

The consortium sent a letter to the Italian bishops’ conference on May 23 at the start of its general assembly.

“We demand truth, justice, and prevention,” it said, calling for an investigation into abuse, the opening of Church archives, compensation for victims, and a strict application of Pope Francis’ norms on the handling of abuse cases by bishops.

In his message, Cardinal O’Malley said that “the reality is that we will be judged on our response to the abuse.”

He proposed seven areas where pastoral conversion was needed: “1. An effective pastoral care of victims; 2. Clear guidance (and vigilance) on training courses for staff in the diocese; 3. Adequate and accurate screening; 4. Removal of perpetrators of abuse; 5. Cooperation with civil authorities; 6. Careful assessment of the risks existing for priests guilty of abuse (for themselves and the community) once they have been reduced to the lay state; 7. Public verification of the protocols in place so that people know the policies are working. An audit and report on the implementation of the policies is very useful.”

“The good news,” he said, “is that where effective policies are adopted and effectively implemented, the number of cases is dramatically reduced.”

“Sexual abuse has always been wrong, for sure,” O’Malley continued. “But the response of leaders in the Church and in civil society has also been wrong. We have learned a great deal over these past 40 years. We have come to see and understand how it has ruined lives, led to substance addictions, and even the tragedy of known and hidden suicides.”

“There is a sea of suffering that we are called to face up to,” he said.

The cardinal told bishops that the “work of listening, healing, and justice is being asked of us since it belongs to the fundamental ministry of a priest and pastor: to welcome people and to be instruments of God’s grace for those who have been hurt by life, even when that hurt comes from within our own ranks.”

“One of the strongest desires of the human heart is to feel safe. Our people want to feel safe in our Church and that means they want to be strengthened in their faith by their pastors,” he said.


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Pope Francis appoints Juan Carlos Cruz to pontifical commission for protecting minors

March 24, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Mar 24, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis appointed Wednesday Juan Carlos Cruz to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Cruz, a Chilean survivor of clerical sex abuse, will sit on the Vatican commission for three years.

“I am very grateful to Pope Francis for trusting me with this appointment. I deeply appreciate it,” Cruz wrote on his Twitter account following the announcement on March 24.

“This renews my commitment to continue working to end the scourge of abuse and for so many survivors who still do have justice.”

Cruz joins the existing members of the commission. Fifteen of their appointments were renewed for a year by the pope.

The Vatican Commission for the Protection of Minors was established by Pope Francis in March 2014 as a papal advisory body to improve the Church’s norms and procedures for the protection of children and vulnerable adults.

Cruz is a survivor of sexual abuse by Fr. Fernando Karadima, who in 2011 was found guilty by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of sexually abusing minors in the 1980s and 1990s.

Pope Francis met with Cruz and other victims of Karadima in April 2018 in a meeting at the Vatican in which the pope apologized for previously defending Chilean Bishop Juan Barros, who was accused of covering up Karadima’s abuse at the time of the pope’s trip to Chile earlier that year.

Cruz later said in an interview that he had spoken about his homosexuality during his private meeting with the pope, and said that Francis had told him to accept himself and his same-sex attraction because God made him that way.

Last week, before his appointment to the pontifical commission, Cruz spoke out in criticism of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith’s (CDF) ruling that the Catholic Church cannot give liturgical blessings of homosexual unions.

Cruz told the Associated Press on March 15 that people would leave the Catholic Church “if the Church and the CDF do not advance with the world.”

Since the pontifical commission’s establishment, the advisory group has been headed by Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston with U.S. Msgr. Robert Oliver as its secretary.

In the Vatican’s March 24 announcement, the membership of Msgr. Luis Manuel Alí Herrera, Fr. Hans Zollner, Sr. Jane Bertelsen, Sr. Arina Gonsalves, Sr. Kayula Lesa, Sr. Hermenegild Makoro, Ernesto Caffo, Gabriel Dy-Liacco, Benyam Dawit Mezmur, John Owen Neville, Nelson Giovannelli Rosendo dos Santo, Hanna Suchocka, Myriam Wijlens, Sinalelea Fe’ao, and Teresa Kettelkamp Morris were renewed.