As I post this column, Pope Francis is attending the second of three days of meetings of the C9 Council of Cardinals who are his advisors. He usually attends both the morning and afternoon sessions but will preside, as previously scheduled, tomorrow’s weekly general audience.
Three of the original nine are no longer members: Cardinal George Pell, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, and Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo. On December 12, 2018, the then papal spokesperson Greg Burke told journalists in a briefing that Pope Francis sent letters to each of them at the end of October to thank them for their service to the Council of Cardinals over the last five years.
No new members have been named.
“THE ABUSE OF CHILDREN IS WRONG ANYWHERE AND ANYTIME: THIS POINT IS NOT NEGOTIABLE”
Statement by Major Superiors of Religious Orders and Congregations prior to the Meeting on the Protection of Minors in Rome UISG / USG
As the meeting on safeguarding and protection of minors begins we, the Major Superiors of Religious Orders and Congregations around the world, unite in support of this initiative of Pope Francis.
In our work as religious, we come across many situations where children are abused, neglected, maltreated and unwanted. We see child soldiers; the trafficking of minors; the sexual abuse of minors; the physical and emotional abuse of minors. They cry out to us. As adults, as Christians and as religious we want to work so that their lives are changed and that the situations in which they are brought up are improved.
The common theme across all of these issues is vulnerability. Children are the most vulnerable in our societies. Children who are poor, who are disabled or destitute or who are on the margins, who belong to lower social classes or castes may have a particular vulnerability. They are considered dispensable, to be used and abused.
Sexual abuse in the Church
This particular meeting focuses on the sexual abuse of children and the abuse of power and conscience by those in authority in the Church, especially bishops, priests and religious. It is a story stretching back for decades, a narrative of immense pain for those who have suffered this abuse.
We bow our heads in shame at the realisation that such abuse has taken place in our Congregations and Orders, and in our Church. We have learned that those who abuse deliberately hide their actions and are manipulative. By definition, it is difficult to uncover this abuse. Our shame is increased by our own lack of realisation of what has been happening. We acknowledge that when we look at Provinces and Regions in our Orders and Congregations across the world, that the response of those in authority has not been what it should have been. They failed to see warning signs or failed to take them seriously.
DIGITAL PRESS KIT FOR THE MEETING ON THE PROTECTION OF MINORS
At yesterday’s press conference, it was announced that a Digital Press Kit for members of the media had been created by the organizing committee specifically for the upcoming four-day meeting on the clerical sex abuse scandal and the Protection of Minors that opens Thursday, February 21.
It is an amazing volume of the type that would ordinarily be prepared as background material for a huge event in the life of the Vatican, the Roman Curia and the media – an event such as a conclave to elect a new Pope. It thus seems that this is how all of us – we in the media and you our readers, radio listeners and TV viewers – are to consider this week’s meeting.
As I browsed through the kit yesterday, and began a serious reading today, I came to realize why so much time had passed between the announcement of this meeting in September and the actual start of the meeting this month. This had been a huge criticism about the meeting when the dates were announced, and I had tweeted: “The house is on fire and the firemen will be here in February.”
The work of many people and a great deal of time went into this press kit: it was obviously not something that was done – or could have been done – overnight.
The same goes for the official website – http://www.pbc2019.org – and the twitter account @pbc2019
If you are truly interested in what this meeting intends to do, is doing and what it will achieve in reality, you’ll want to stay tuned to the website and twitter account, in addition to the vaticannews.va page where daily press briefings will be streamed.
The Digital Press Kit is divided into 9 chapters that embrace Background on the Meeting on the Protection of Minors, Official Curial or Papal Documents, Timeline of the Church’s Response both on the Local and Universal Levels, Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and General background regarding how cases of sexual abuse of minors by a deacon, priest or bishop are processed in the Church.
The final chapters are titled Safeguarding Boards and Guidelines by country, Experts by Country, Articles and Interviews in various languages and A look at Child Abuse on the Global Level.
We read about the three themes for the first three days off meetings, themes desired by Pope Francis: 1) Responsibility, 2) Accountability, 3) Transparency. Each of these themes will be articulated in three presentations. Each presentation will focus on the theme as it relates to: the person of the bishop and his responsibilities; the relationship of a bishop with other bishops; the relationship of the bishops with the People of God and society. The presenters were chosen so that a variety of continents, cultures and situations in the Church could be represented.
Please click here to access a list of the presentations and the presenters: http://www.pbc2019.org/conference/presentations
http://www.pbc2019.prg is the pofficial website for the protection of minors meeting.
There will be a brief time for questions and answers at the end of each presentation. Then the participants will meet in their language groups to discuss the presentation(s). Each group will formulate a brief summary of their discussion to be shared with the assembly in the evening.