Sister Sally and the meeting at the Vatican held on Protection of Minors in the Church
Thank you for the prayers for the meeting on Protection of Minors in the Church held at the Vatican. As you know this is a critical situation for our Global Church. Certainly some countries have been dealing with this horrific issue for 30 years or more and others are just now admitting that they have this issue in their countries. But the main focus must always be on accompanying the victims who have had their life and very identity taken from them through the abuse they suffered at the hands of clergy whom they thought could be trusted.
You can read or listen to the presentations on line so I will not repeat what they said. Rather I will share what the experience was for me and others during these past four days.
The meeting opened on Thursday morning, February 21 with all 192 of us listening to five victim survivors of sexual abuse via audio tapes. Their honesty and their pain came across very clearly. We also listened to 3 courageous victims who came and spoke to us in person on different days during our daily 30 minute closing prayer. These 8 people asked that the Church change how they receive victims and to listen to and journey with them. Others told us that the abuser had robbed them of their Church, their home and their relationship with God. It was both a graced and draining experience for us to listen to these victim survivors. We will never really know the depth of their pain but having heard and seen a glimpse of it, we can never be the same. This was especially important for those bishops who have not taken the time to feel the pain of the victim survivors or who have not had a case to listen to as yet. These experiences, the presentations and group discussions is what hopefully will help move some of the bishops to act more quickly and responsibly.
Yes, those bishops who did not remove priests from ministry or covered up the allegations are culpable but any other priest, sister or lay person who saw or sensed something wrong and did not bring it to the church or civil authorities are also culpable. All of us must be both proactive in reporting anything we saw or see and be a faithful listening presence to the victims of abuse by clergy.
I was also moved by the concern expressed by some Cardinals, for the emotional and mental health of the bishops who must deal with these cases and the blame placed on them even though they may not have been the bishop at the time of the cover up in the past. The pain of some of these bishops is no near the same level of pain of the victim survivors, but it is an aspect of this crisis that is not often mentioned. We also recommended more resources and training for bishops who must be prepared to act responsibly in these matters.
I encourage all of you, if you have not already done so, to read the presentations during those three days and Pope Francis’ reflections on the opening of the meeting and at the closing Mass. Together may we be vigilant in holding ourselves and the bishops accountable in responsibly following the guidelines with compassion and justice in a timely manner.
Please pray each day for all the victim survivors and their families.