MEETING ON PROTECTION OF MINORS: RESPONSIBILITY, ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY

MEETING ON PROTECTION OF MINORS: RESPONSIBILITY, ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY

Pope Francis, following the Angelus on Sunday, spoke of the “Protection of Minors in the Church” meeting that starts this week – February 21 – in the Vatican. The presidents of the world’s Episcopal Conferences will attend, in addition to many other invitees for a total of 190 participants.

The four-day meeting will include plenary sessions, working groups, moments of common prayer, listening to testimonies, a penitential liturgy, and a final Eucharistic celebration. Francis invited the faithful in St. Peter’s Square to pray for the meeting, saying he wanted it “as an act of strong pastoral responsibility in the face of an urgent challenge of our time,” clerical sex abuse.

This morning there was a press conference to present the meeting on protecting minors. Participants included Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, member of the Organizing Committee; Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, member of the Organizing Committee; Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, moderator of the meeting; and Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner, president of the Center for the Protection of Minors of the Pontifical Gregorian University, member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors; Also present was American Pauline Sr. Bernadette Reis, assistant to the press office director.

Interim press office director Alessandro Gisotti moderated.

The press conference opened with brief statements by all of the participants for a total of 45 minutes. Cardinal Cupich said, “we at the conference must give a voice to the voiceless, to the minors, to the victims of abuse.” He announced that people who wanted to follow the meeting could refer to a website that would be launched right after today’s press conference.

That website is: http://www.pbc2019.org twitter.com/pbc2019

Archbishop Scicluna, quoting Pope Francis on the trip back from Panama for World Youth Day, said “we all need to be more aware of this problem, we know it’s important that we know what we need to do.” Scicluna added, “It is important that we pray. We must remember the flock is not our own, it is the flock of Jesus Christ. We all need it to be on the same page and just coming together is a big step.” (Scicliuna on left)

The Maltese archbishop thanked the media for the investigative work that has brought this topic where it belongs by bringing stories to light, and encouraged them to continue to collaborate.

Fr. Federico Lombardi outlined the three days of work sessions, as well as the penitential liturgy on Saturday afternoon and the closing Mass with the Pope on Sunday. Those last two events will be in the Sala Regia of the Apostolic Palace, whereas the other meetings are in the new Synod Hall. (Lombardi on right, next to Gisotti)

There will be a specific theme for each of the three days of work: responsibility accountability and transparency. Fr. Lombardi outlined the specifics of each day’s morning and afternoon sessions, including speaker

Fr. Hans Zollner noted that a questionnaire was sent to all participants with five questions. There was an astonishing 89% response. Some of the questions included how would you describe sex abuse by clerics in your country? What is the level of awareness among the public? What are the greatest risk factors in your country/ cultures?

Fr. Zollner said this survey will help to create a synodal church and will help even more so in the follow up to this week’s meeting. He then announced the website whereby everyone can follow this meeting: pbc2019.org PBC stands for Presidents Bishops Conference. The site will be continually updated and will eventually serve to tailor the responses for bishops as they do a follow-up in their home countries.

In the question and answer session, which lasted over an hour, Cardinal Cupich was asked when what message he will bring to Chicagoans when he returns. He responded that he wants to make it clear that bishops have to take responsibility on sex abuse issues, that loopholes have to be closed, and that concrete steps – especially for bishops – will be in place. Cupich said he hopes that people see this as a turning point, and that they know that the three themes – responsibility accountability and transparency – will keep children safe. He emphasized that bishops will be held accountable.

In response to a journalist who noted that Archbishop Scicluna was the first to have the courage to use the word “omerta”, a mafia word for silence, vis a vis the Church, Scicluna replied by saying silence can never exist in clerical sex abuse cases. He said, “denial is a natural but a primitive response” adding, there is great need to break any and all codes of silence.

The organizers were asked if they will be addressing “the question of abuse of vulnerable adults, of seminarians,” to which Scicluna immediately responded “other types of misconduct will be addressed.”

Cardinal Cupich, addressing that question, said “it is our intention at this meeting to focus on those who do not have a voice, that is to say and minors.”

A journalist asked Archbishop Scicluna how we felt Pope Francis had evolved on this issue.

In fact, Scicluna was asked last year to be a point man for the Pope in events in Chile after the Pope had he denied the veracity of earlier reports of victims and later, admitted he, Francis, was part of the problem.

The archbishop said “we have to look at Francis where he is now. He no longer hides from reality. The Pope says we need to make things right and the 190 people here for the meeting all want to do that. We are also going to start follow-up procedures immediately after the meeting.” He added he was greatly impressed by Pope Francis’ humility. He added, “If something goes wrong, we need to make it right.”

Another question was asked about accountability. If the Church is asking Episcopal conferences to be accountable for clerical sex abuse cases in their jurisdiction, why is the Vatican not being held accountable to the same standard?

Cardinal Cupich said, “yes, that has to be looked at.” He noted there are reports that say homosexuality is not a cause of abuse of minors, and reports, like CARA, that say reports of cases have declined greatly in the United States since measures were taken to look at how seminaries screen young men.

Another journalist asked how seminarians get ordained, much less move up the ladder to becoming a bishop or beyond. Where are the protocols for selecting a bishop based on behavior, past activity or inclinations, psychological evaluation, etc.

Archbishop Scicluna said the Congregation for Bishops is working on guidelines similar to those in seminaries for evaluating a person nomination for the Episcopal office.

Another journalist asked if there should not be in more input from women, noting that there are only about 10 at this weeks meeting.

Cardinal Cupich agreed and said that, in his 20 years as a bishop the voices and input from women have been very valuable and had helped him very much.

The question was asked: why did the Pope try recently to lower expectations for this conference! Archbishop Scicluna said, “the higher the expectations, the higher the frustrations will be. The Pope has said let’s start with reasonable expectations. It will actually be the follow up everywhere that will be the most watched.

Cardinal Cupich was asked about the alleged Vatican interference in the November meeting of bishops in the US. He said the Holy See actually did us a favor in November by asking us to wait. This is part of the synodality the Pope wants, working together with others.”

Members of the organizing committee have been asked by the Pope to stay in Rome for a few days after the event ends Sunday.

 

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LEAP YEAR AND “THE CATHOLIC CONNECTION” – CARDINAL PELL TESTIFIES BEFORE ROYAL COMMISSION ON ABUSE CASES

One of the more extraordinary moments of my life occurred last Friday when I had an amazing reunion with two former high school French students of mine, touching bases for the first time since I left the Academy of the Holy Names in 1964! The now-defunct Academy, where I taught French for four years, was at 711 Pershing Drive in Silver Spring, Maryland, and the very buildings were an illustrious part of state history.

I could write an extra long column about how very much I loved teaching, the great relationships I built with a number of AHN families, and how special the Academy and those years were! Perhaps another day, another time.

Monica (Longen) Knudsen and Anne (Quinn) Glickman stayed in touch after they graduated from the Academy and, even though they now live in different states, they still keep up with each other. (Monica, l, and Anne, center)

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In 2014 they went to the Holy Land on a pilgrimage. On their return, upon watching EWTN one night in her home, Monica heard what she told her husband was “a familiar voice.” My name was announced and she theorized it was her former French teacher, did some research, found me on Facebook (merci Facebook!) and contacted Anne!

In a November 2014 post, Monica wrote: A thought to cheer you: I have never forgotten so many things you taught us in French class. For example, you told us that “mon petit chou-fleur” was a term of endearment in French. Leave it to the French to be able to wring romance out of a humble cauliflower! Happy Thanksgiving to you! Monica

I learned they would be in Rome at this time with a small group and we arranged to have dinner last Friday at La Scaletta. It was phenomenal – Monica, Anne and Madameoiselle Lewis –after so many years! But the years melted away as we exchanged stories about families, work, travel, the changes in teaching and our country in the ensuing years – oh so many adventures!

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And we reminisced, of course, about AHN – the classrooms, the gym, the ballroom, having classes outdoors in the spring, the nuns and the two other lay teachers, so much! It was amazing to go back in time when I was barely 10 years older than my freshmen and sophomore students!

Salih, one of the waiters at La Scaletta, was so taken by this wonderful reunion story, that he was telling everyone at the other tables about us – a group of Scottish rugby players, young Italian couples out for the night, an American couple, and others. The Italians came over to congratulate us and wish us the very best for the future! They were so young that I’m sure the idea of a friendship spanning 50 years was almost beyond comprehension!

Another special moment was having Francesco, the Sicilian-born, Bill Murray-lookalike chef personally cater to our table, bringing our dishes, etc. to us.

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Both Monica and Anne had copies of my book so I wrote a few dedications. I’ve invited them to my home for a mini reception and some prosecco when they return to Rome from points north on Thursday, and they’ll bring several more members of the group.

LEAP YEAR AND “THE CATHOLIC CONNECTION”

Here we are – it’s that extra special day we get once every four years in what we call Leap year and – guess what – it has its origins right here in Rome!

I recently read a story in the Boston Pilot by Donis Tracy that explained that this extra day was a way to adapt the calendar year to the astronomical year. While the concept of the leap year has been around since ancient times — the Ancient Jewish calendar added a leap month every 19 years for example — the current calendar year has its origins in the Catholic Church.

You see, in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII set about adjusting the calendar in order to bring the celebration of Easter to the time of year in which it was celebrated by the early Church. Pope Gregory determined that the calendar was out of sync with the spring equinox by 10 days, and set out to remedy that. This was significant to the Church because the date for Easter was set by the Council of Nicea in 325 as the Sunday after the first full moon of spring, and the start of spring was fixed as March 21. Without adjustment, the date of Easter would eventually drift into the summer.

On February 24, 1582, Pope Gregory issued a papal bull that said the new calendar – which would be called the Gregorian calendar – added an extra day to February every four years, unless the year is divisible by 100. Those years do not have a leap year. The exception to that rule is if the year is divisible by 400. So, following this rule, 1900 was not a leap year but 2000 was. There was some confusion in different countries for a while but eventually all fell into place!

Are you confused as well? You are probably not alone.

For the Pilot story, Tracy interviewed Rev. James Weiss, associate professor of Church history at Boston College.

Over the next 200 years, noted The Pilot article, most European nations adopted the Gregorian calendar, he continued. The final country to switch to the Gregorian calendar was Turkey, which finally adopted the calendar in 1927.

Today, most of the world uses the Gregorian calendar. Some exceptions, such as Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan still use their traditional calendars to mark the years. Others, such as India, Bangladesh and Israel use both the Gregorian and their traditional calendars to mark the passage of time.

CARDINAL PELL TESTIFIES BEFORE ROYAL COMMISSION ON ABUSE CASES

This weekend, before his testimony on sex abuse cases in Australia, given via video linkup with Australia from a Rome hotel, Cardinal George Pell visited the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Vatican Gardens to pray for all survivors use. He is the prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.

The Cardinal testified for four hours from Sunday night to early Monday morning (given the time difference between Australia and Rome) before the Royal Commission that is investigating institutional sexual abuse in Australia. He will testify again over the next few days. Seated in the same conference room were two dozen Australian abuse survivors who had traveled to Rome with the help of donations from a fund-raising campaign to help pay their expenses.

(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Pell also offered his support for the “Loud Fence” movement by tying a yellow ribbon on the fence at the grotto.

Beginning in Ballarat, in the Australian state of Victoria, the Loud Fence movement encourages people to tie brightly-coloured ribbons on the fences of Catholic institutions, as a symbol of solidarity with survivors of sexual abuse, their families and communities.

The people of the Diocese of Ballarat suffered greatly from a sexual abuse crisis, which led to the suicide of several victims.

Loud Fence ribbons had previously been tied to the barricades around St. Peter’s Square, but the ribbon Cardinal Pell tied to the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto is the first to appear within the Vatican itself.

“I am aware of the Loud Fence movement and how it has grown rapidly. This is my gesture of support, especially for the people of Ballarat,” Cardinal Pell said.

“I think this is an entirely appropriate place to place a ribbon of support and prayed for all survivors of abuse here. I hope the coming days will eventually lead to healing for everyone,” he continued.

Cardinal Pell said he hoped people will accept this gesture of support and solidarity for the Loud Fence movement.

Cardinal Pell has repeatedly given his support for the work of the Australian Royal Commission, and has vowed to meet individually with victims who had travelled to Rome and has said he hoped the coming days “will eventually lead to healing for everyone.”

During his testimony, he acknowledged the Church has not handled the issue of sexual abuse well in the past.

“I’m not here to defend the indefensible. The church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those,” Cardinal Pell said.

“The Church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those, but the Church in many places, certainly in Australia, has mucked things up, has let people down,” he continued.

Cardinal Pell is scheduled to give further evidence over the next three days.