As I mentioned a few days ago, at the Gregorian University in Rome there just concluded a symposium for bishops and religious superiors on sexual abuse of minors.
The Gregorian is where I studied back in 1977-78, and I have fond memories of the place. I am delighted that they hosted this much needed symposium.
Yesterday, Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, Promoter of Justice, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith presented a wonderful paper entitled: A Quest for Truth in Sexual Abuse Cases. You may read it entirely in English at:
I would like to draw out for you a few key elements of his comments:
“Love for the truth must be expressed in love for justice and in the resulting commitment to establishing truth in relations within human society.”
“…the teaching of Blessed John Paul II that truth is at the basis of justice explains why a deadly culture of silence or “omertà” is in itself wrong and unjust. Other enemies of the truth are the deliberate denial of known facts and the misplaced concern that the good name of the institution should somehow enjoy absolute priority to the detriment of legitimate disclosure of crime.”
“The acknowledgment and recognition of the full truth of the matter in all its sorrowful effects and consequences is at the source of true healing for both victim and perpetrator.
“Experts in psychology are better equipped to explain how and why the perpetrator develops coping mechanisms, whether primitive or complex, like denial, sublimation, minimizing and projection. No coping mechanism can substitute the liberating effect on the cleric’s conscience and on his whole being as a person and as a minister of God derived from the full, humble, honest and contrite acknowledgment of his sin, his crime, his responsibility for the harm he has caused to the victims, to the Church, to society.”
“Experts in psychology are also better equipped to explain the radical need of the victim to be heard attentively, to be understood and believed, to be treated with dignity as he or she plods on the tiresome journey of recovery and healing. We need the input of experts in order to be able to evaluate the so called “recovered memories” concerning event that allegedly happened decades previously. No less challenging is the limited phenomenon of some victims who refuse to move on in life, who seem to have indentified “self” simply with “having been victims”. These fellow brothers and sisters of ours merit our special attention and care.”
“The law is clear. But, as Blessed John Paul II rightly remarked in 1994, the faithful need to be convinced that ecclesial society is living under the governance of law. The law may indeed be clear. But this is not enough for peace and order in the community. Our people need to know that the law is being applied.”
“Another corollary of this “paramount criterion” is the duty to cooperate with state authorities in our response to child abuse. Sexual abuse of minors is not just a canonical delict or a breach of a Code of Conduct internal to an institution, whether it be religious or other. It is also a crime prosecuted by civil law. Although relations with civil authority will differ in various countries, nevertheless it is important to cooperate with such authorities within their responsibilities.”“Blessed John Paul II had this to say in 1994: «You are well aware of the temptation to lighten the heavy demands of observing the law in the name of a mistaken idea of compassion and mercy. In this regard, it must be firmly said that if it is a question of a transgression that concerns the individual alone, one need only refer to the injunction: “Go your way, and from now on do not sin again” (Jn 8:11). But if the rights of others are at stake, mercy cannot be shown or received without addressing the obligations that correspond to these rights»”
It is too bad this symposium is not receiving more coverage, even in the Catholic media. The Catholic News Service did place an article on its website today. I would encourage all of you to log on to website above to read the many other presentations on this subject.
It seems clear that the Church more clearly understands and is confronting this evil of child sexual abuse. I applaud the men and women who are attending this symposium and the work they will do in returning to their home dioceses and congregations. May all of us educate ourselves sexual abuse of minors, and create safe environments in our Church institutions.