Rome, Italy, May 26, 2022 / 10:54 a.m. (CNA).
Cardinal Seán O’Malley on Wednesday urged Italian Catholic bishops to work for “pastoral conversion” in their approach to survivors of clergy sex abuse.
The head of the Vatican’s abuse commission made the call in a video message broadcast on the third day of the bishops’ plenary assembly in Rome, May 23-27.
“We have nothing to fear from telling the truth. The truth will set us free. Acknowledging people’s stories of abuse, listening to survivors and committing to working together isn’t easy, but I can tell you after 40 years it’s the only way,” the Archbishop of Boston said.
He continued: “Sometimes, and perhaps rightly so, there seems to be no adequate steps we can take to make things right for those who have been abused.”
“This is perhaps the most difficult part of being a pastor: knowing that our listening and our efforts for healing and justice will probably fall short of what survivors are looking for. It’s a sobering reminder that ultimately only God’s grace can mend what sin has broken.
O’Malley’s message came as Italian bishops discussed whether to hold a national inquiry into the abuse.
Italian associations came together in February to coordinate a movement against abuses in the Catholic Church in Italy. The network, which calls itself #ItalyChurchToo, is pushing the bishops to conduct an independent investigation into clerical sexual abuse in Italy over the past 70 years.
The consortium sent a letter to the Italian episcopal conference on May 23 at the start of its general assembly.
“We demand truth, justice and prevention,” he said, calling for an investigation into abuses, the opening of Church archives, compensation for victims and strict enforcement of Pope Francis’ norms on the handling of cases of abuse by bishops.
In his message, Cardinal O’Malley said “the reality is that we will be judged on our response to abuse.”
He proposed seven areas where pastoral conversion was needed: “1. Effective pastoral care of victims; 2. A clear orientation (and vigilance) on the training of the personnel of the diocese; 3. Adequate and accurate screening; 4. Removal of perpetrators; 5. Cooperation with civil authorities; 6. A careful assessment of the risks existing for abusive priests (for themselves and for the community) once they have been reduced to the lay state; 7. Public verification of protocols in place so people know policies are working. An audit and report on the implementation of policies is very useful.
“The good news,” he said, “is that where effective policies are adopted and actually implemented, the number of cases is dramatically reduced.”
“Sexual abuse has always been wrong, of course,” O’Malley continued. “But the response from church and civil society leaders has also been misguided. We have learned a lot over the past 40 years. We have come to see and understand how it has ruined lives, led to addictions and even the tragedy of known and hidden suicides.
“There is a sea of suffering that we are called to face,” he said.
The cardinal told the bishops that “the work of listening, of healing and of justice is asked of us since it belongs to the fundamental ministry of a priest and a pastor: to welcome people and to be instruments of the grace of God for those who have been wounded by life, even when that wound comes from our own ranks.
“One of the strongest desires of the human heart is to feel safe. Our people want to feel safe in our Church and that means they want to be strengthened in their faith by their pastors,” he said. he declares.
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