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A new era for the Catholic Church after 2018 turbulences

27.02.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
The year 2018 was a shocking time for the hierarchy of the Catholic Church outraged by direct accusations against the Pope and complaints about the scandals of sexual abuse and pedophilia. To solve this thorny problem and to win the case for the victims, a summit for the protection of minors in the church was held from Thursday 21 to Sunday 24 February 2019 at the Vatican, a primordial meeting attended by leaders of episcopal conferences around the world. During this summit, participants first discussed the accountability of bishops who are accountable and then the issue of transparency in the church. The conclusions drawn by the Pope at the close of this meeting are not as concrete as many expected but are a first step towards awareness in the Catholic Church.

At the opening of the summit, the Pope expressed himself in these terms: “Faced with the plague of sexual abuse perpetrated by men of churches against minors, I thought to consult you patriarchs, so that together we will listen to the Holy Spirit (…) that we listened to the cry of the little ones who ask for justice. The holy people of God are watching us and expecting from us not simple and easy condemnations but concrete and effective measures to advocate “. Pope Francis had vowed that the evil of pedophilia should be turned into an opportunity for awareness and purification. All the victims waited for its concretization this speech on the last day of the summit.

Pope Francis’ Conclusions

At the end of the three days work, the Vicar of Christ on Earth concluded the summit by affirming the determination of the Catholic Church to fight against the scourge of aggression of which she is aware “if in the church even one detects abuse – which is already a horror in itself – such a case will be faced with the utmost gravity,” said the pontiff. The Pope has inserted ecclesial reality into a global social context “We are facing a universal and transversal problem that unfortunately exists almost everywhere,” he said, citing several surveys. He added, “Behind evil, there is Satan”.

Pope Francis pointed out the extent of this phenomenon, which transcends borders and takes place in the family, at school and in sport, which global organizations underestimate. He mentioned other plagues that hit children such as sex tourism, forced labor and enlisting in wars. He also recalled that the vast majority of priests and religious are faithful to their celibacy and feel “dishonored and discredited” by the “shameful behavior” of perpetrators of sexual abuse.

The disgrace of the Church in summer 2018

Late last summer, a Pennsylvania grand jury in the US released a 1356-page report in which charges of sexual assault and rape by 300 priests are mentioned. It was the sexual abuse of thousands of children that goes back to the early 1940s. Of the priests mentioned in this report, two are indicted. This is surely because of the gravity of their actions and also because their cases date back to 2000 and 2010.

This report also condemns the Catholic Church and accuses it of failing in its mission: “Priests raped little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible did nothing, but they all hid it for decades”. Two days after the publication of this report, the Vatican had expressed itself by stressing their shame and anger. The pope reassured the victims that he is on their side, and those who suffered the atrocities of the priests are his priority and promised to listen to them to eradicate this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent. Hence, after his speech on Thursday, five testimonies of victims previously recorded were broadcast in a room reserved for bishops.

Considerable measures

After multiple revelations about his crimes in the press, and their heavy weight on the Church, 88-year-old former Archbishop of Washington Theodore McCarrick was defrocked by the Vatican and becomes a mere layman. This historic and definitive sanction, which fell on Saturday, February 16th, is a strong signal to the representatives of the churches. While waiting for canonical sanctions, in India, it is revealed that the Catholic priest Robin Vadakkumchery was convicted for raping a 16-year-old girl by the Kerala court and sentenced to 20 years in prison, a judgment that comes after similar cases involving members of the local church.

The pontiff suggests great vigilance when entering the seminary. That lay people, and especially psychologists, can evaluate the psychological equilibrium of seminarians and future priests. It may not be fast or as soon as it is done, but laws and sentences will follow that summit to end this problem in the church.

The expectations of the victims

The summit left the victims of sexual abuse on their hunger because they expected rapid and radical decisions from the Pope. The latter are now waiting for concrete measures to be implemented. A priori, it should be noted that the Vatican’s sentence on the perpetrators of the crimes is a very symbolic primer, the beginning of a new phase in the fight against impunity in the Catholic Church.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

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