At the Vatican meeting, Card Tagle highlighted "our lack of response to the sufferings of the victims", as well as the fear of getting involved and touching "the wounds of humanity". Justice and forgiveness can heal wounds. Offenders too must be treated. For Mgr Scicluna, established protocols must be implemented and civil laws obeyed. More attention should be paid to the candidates in the selection process for the priesthood. Bishops should be closer to their priests.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The meeting in the Vatican on the protection of minors from the abuses perpetrated by members of the Church focused this morning on the responsibilities of bishops and religious superiors in listening to the victims, judging offences, engaging in reconciliation and working on prevention.
Two reports were presented after Pope Francis delivered his address. The first one by Card Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, stressed "Our lack of response to the suffering of victims". The second was by Mgr Charles J Scicluna, archbishop of Malta, assistant secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and member of the meeting’s organising committee.
Taking a more theological approach and a "faith and ecclesial perspective", inspired by the risen Jesus’s apparition before the fearful disciples, showing the wounds (see John 20:19-28), Card Tagle stressed the importance of approaching the wounds of Christ, without fear, for they are also "the wounds of humanity" and those our world through which one becomes certain of His resurrection. Often this does not happen because "of fear" since not only "the wounds of the Risen Christ carry the memory of innocent suffering, but they also carry the memory of our weakness and sinfulness. [. . .] Only by drawing close to His wounds could they (the disciples) be sent on a mission of reconciliation and forgiveness”.
Card Tagle insisted on the value of achieving justice, but also raised the question of how to "help the victims to heal from the effects of the abuse". Quoting scientific research, he said that in addition to justice, forgiveness is necessary for it is a "powerful and even scientifically supported pathway for eliminating pain, resentment”, thus breathing life into the heart again.
Helping victims remains necessary. “Regarding victims, we need to help them to express their deep hurts and to heal from them. Regarding the perpetrators, we need to serve justice, help them to face the truth without rationalization, and at the same time not neglect their inner world, their own wounds.”
“Learning from the Risen Lord and his disciples, we look at and touch the wounds of victims, families, guilty and innocent clergy, the Church and society. Beholding Jesus wounded by betrayal and abuse of power, we see the wounds of those hurt by those who should have protected them. In Jesus we experience the mercy that preserves justice and celebrates the gift of forgiveness.”
Mgr Scicluna’s report is a kind of handbook, a look at all the stages needed to proceed in cases of child abuse. Citing Benedict XVI in his Pastoral Letter to the Catholics in Ireland (19 March 2010) and that to the bishops of Ireland in 2006, the prelate calls on all bishops and superiors to act "without unnecessary delay" in implementing established “protocols" and obeying" civil or domestic laws".
Mgr Scicluna suggests that bishops evaluate matters together, inform the Christian community, and insist that charges against those convicted be promptly implemented. Serious cases of abuse of children under 18 should also involve the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Part of the report is dedicated to the "prevention of sexual misconduct" by the clergy. This must be done with careful "screening of future candidates". Child protection should be included in training courses, and candidates should be carefully taught about “human freedom and sound moral doctrine."
Underlining the importance of a "culture of disclosure" and not concealment, the Archbishop of Malta noted that pastors to be close to their priests and religious and get to know them.
“I ask you to be attentive to the spiritual and moral lives of each one of your priests. Set them an example by your own lives, be close to them, listen to their concerns, offer them encouragement at this difficult time and stir up the flame of their love for Christ and their commitment to the service of their brothers and sisters.”