Catholic World News

Vatican statement defends response to sex-abuse scandal

March 04, 2016

Responding to new questions about the Church response to sexual abuse—raised by the popularity of the movie Spotlight and the testimony of Cardinal George Pell before an Australian royal commission—the Vatican press office released a statement on March 4 outlining the Church’s efforts to combat the problem.

“The sensationalist presentation” of recent events has created misunderstandings, the Vatican statement said, “for a significant part of the public, especially those who are least informed or have a short memory, it is thought that the Church has done nothing, or very little, to respond to these terrible problems…” The statement went on at length to describe the steps that Church leaders have taken to respond to the problem.

The statement listed the universal norms that have been established for handling sex-abuse complaints; the guidelines prepared by individual conferences of bishops; the implementation of measures to protect children; and the investigations into special situations such as the scandal within the Legionaries of Christ. The statement mentioned the meetings that Popes Benedict XVI and Francis have arranged with victims of abuse, and the statements from the Holy See. “Benedict XVI’s letter to the Irish faithful in March 2010 probably remains the most eloquent document of reference,” the Vatican press office said.

The statement called attention to the establishment of a special papal commission for the protection of minors, and explained the role of that panel. The statement went on to say that the Church has sought to take the lead in a bid to protect children, noting that abuse remains a major problem in other institutions.

“From this perspective the events in Rome of the last few days may be interpreted in a positive light,” the Vatican statement argued, explaining that the public testimony by Cardinal Pell “must be accorded the appropriate acknowledgement for his dignified and coherent personal testimony.” The cardinal’s frank admission of the failures of Church leaders could contribute to a “purification of memory,” the statement said.


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