Pope Francis has promised concrete action to tackle child sex abuse at the end of a Roman Catholic Church summit on paedophilia, while pledging to face every case with “utmost seriousness”.
What was the Pope’s stand at the sex abuse summit?
Child sex abuse, he said, reminded him of the ancient religious practice of child sacrifice in pagan rites. Bishops should now review and strengthen their guidelines to prevent abuse and punish perpetrators, he added.
Wrapping up an unprecedented Vatican summit, Pope Francis denounced the abuse of minors and called for an end to the Catholic Church’s long history of covering up such sort of scandals.
By inviting the leaders of Catholic bishops conferences and religious orders from around the world to a four-day tutorial on preventing sex abuse, Francis has made clear that they all are responsible for protecting the children in their care and must punish the priests who might violate them, or risk punishment themselves.
But although his words truly seemed powerful, it was actually the handful of women invited to address the summit who drove the message home most forcefully. That too speaks volumes about the future of an institution where women are officially barred from the hierarchy’s ranks but are increasingly raising their voices and walking out when they aren’t heard.
Pope said those who abuse children are instruments of Satan
Francis told church leaders that most sexual abuse of minors occurs in the family and talked about abuse in relation to online pornography and sex tourism across the world.
But he added that the universality of abuse “does not diminish” the harm done within the church, and he called those who had abused children “instruments of Satan” and “ravenous wolves.” The presence of abuse within the church, Francis said, is more scandalous because of its incompatibility with the Church’s “moral authority and ethical credibility.”
What’s going to be done about the priest’s sexual abuse though?
And some concrete steps were announced at the summit’s end that will change things as they were before.
For starters, the Vatican in the coming days is expected to issue a new child protection policy for the Vatican City State. Despite having instructed all the world’s bishops’ conferences to draft such a policy in 2011, the headquarters of the global Catholic Church still has none.
The Vatican is said to issue a step-by-step guidebook for bishops around the world explaining how to investigate and prosecute abuse cases. Task forces at the regional or continental level will be established to give them expert help, since many dioceses in poorer countries simply don’t have the legal resources on hand.
All indications are that the Vatican will be re-evaluating the use of “pontifical secret” in abuse cases, so that victims can actually learn the outcomes of their cases.
New “clarifications” are expected to be issued about implementing a 2016 law on holding bishops and religious superiors accountable when they cover up abuse cases.
And individual bishops conferences, such as in the U.S., are plowing ahead to articulate clear accountability proposals for their leadership.
Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s longtime sex crimes prosecutor, told reporters at the summit’s end that his main takeaway after four days was that there is now a recognition within the church that “abuse of minors is an egregious crime, but so too is cover-up.” And with that, he said, “There is no going back.
Reactions to the Pope’s sex summit
Activists manifested certain criticism as to what good this summit will actually do in the future.
Some of the statements said:
“The summit called by Pope Francis ended with a hole in the water,” it said, using an Italian expression to mean “useless” and ” futile.”
“It responded to the world with a banality and intellectual misery that humiliates victims and offends Catholics,”
“Nothing in either the pope’s remarks or [a Vatican] list of ‘concrete initiatives’ suggests that complicit church managers will be laicized, fired or demoted,” Bishop Accountability said.
“Nothing we heard today suggests that a universal ‘one strike and you’re out’ policy for either abusers or enablers is even being considered.”