A high-level international meeting on clerical sexual abuse, summoned by Pope Francis to take…
Learning from the past and looking to the future
If you read one item in the paper this week (and I sincerely hope you read more than one!), let it be the In Focus on the history of the clergy sexual abuse crisis written by Russell Shaw.
With clarity and insight, Shaw paints a picture of the Church on the brink of crisis in the 1980s and 1990s, and illustrates how a failure to recognize the scope of the problem led to disastrous results. As we know all too well, the Church is still caught up in those disastrous results today, and it still has much to learn. Since most of you are familiar with the latest developments, I will not recount them here. A recap is available on Page 14 in the In Focus, if needed.
While the In Focus looks mostly in the rearview mirror, it’s important to also look ahead at where the Church is going next. First, as outlined back in September, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ administrative committee has approved several policies and procedures to help hold bishops accountable in the wake of accusations of sexual abuse — a gross omission from the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” established in Dallas in 2002 to address allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy. Significant among those developments is the establishment of a third-party reporting system to receive complaints of sexual abuse of minors and/or adults by bishops.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, USCCB president, has also made it clear that discussions around the clergy abuse crisis will headline the bishops’ general assembly in Baltimore Nov. 12-14. According to an interview the cardinal gave with Catholic News Service, the agenda “will include multiple items for dealing with the abuse crisis and, particularly, the issue of bishops’ behavior and accountability, the cardinal said.”
Then, in early January, the bishops will, at the urging of Pope Francis, convene once again for a week-long spiritual retreat centered on what Cardinal DiNardo called the “intense matters” facing the Church today. The retreat will be held Jan. 2-8 at Mundelein Seminary in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and the director will be Reverend Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., preacher to the papal household.
Finally, from Feb. 21-24, Pope Francis is convening all the presidents of the bishops’ conferences from around the world in Rome to focus on “the protection of minors.”
Why are all of these dates important? Because as we reflect on the past mistakes of the Church, it helps also to recognize steps being taken to find a remedy.
Make no mistake, it is not just the bishops who must forge a way forward. The laity must be highly involved. But during the next several months, we should pray in a special way for our leaders — that they may have the wisdom and courage they need to effect lasting change in the Church and to, most importantly, ensure that our young people are always safe.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editor-in-chief of Our Sunday Visitor. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.