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In Register symposium, prelates offer candid thoughts on Vatican abuse summit

February 15, 2019

Prominent prelates have offered unusually blunt comments on the prospect for next week’s Vatican “summit” on sexual abuse, in a symposium published by the National Catholic Register.

The Register asked five contributors what the Catholic world should expect from the Vatican meeting, which will be held February 21 to 24, and will bring together the presidents of all the world’s episcopal conferences.

  • Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former apostolic nuncio whose testimony has called attention to a homosexual network in the hierarchy, said that the problem of abuse can be traced to “doctrinal and moral corruption of many seminary formators, corruption that increased exponentially beginning in the 1960s.” To address this problem, the archbishop said, seminarians must be carefully screened, and before ordination to the priesthood a candidate “must already be living chaste celibacy peacefully and for a prolonged period of time.” Archbishop Vigano went on to say that other questions must be raised as well: “Why does Pope Francis keep and even call as his close collaborators people who are notorious homosexuals? Why has he refused to answer legitimate and sincere questions about these appointments?”
  • Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was equally direct in his response to the fundamental problem. “Without chastity, piety and strict discipline, priestly life cannot succeed,” he said. Underlining that thought, he lamented that “some bishops and their propagandists, particularly in Germany and the United States, do not want to admit at any price that the sin of unchastity is the root of the problem.”
  • Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia expressed his sympathy for lay Catholics who have been outraged by recent revelations of abuse and corruption. He also dismissed some efforts to deflect attention from the central concern, explaining: “Within the Church herself, I’ve met very few parents who think the abuse problem is mainly about clericalism or the abuse of power. Those things may be factors, but predatory homosexuality played a major role in most of the abuse cases we know about, and laypeople are well aware of it.”
  • Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa, struck a different note, saying that the Vatican meeting should explore different explanations for the problem of abuse, “rather than working off the assumption that a particular root cause exists.” He suggested a listening session, drawing thoughts from all the assembled bishops. In contrast with his colleagues, Cardinal Napier argued that “it is quite premature to be talking about episcopal accountability even before establishing the nature and the extent of the problem.”
  • A single lay contributor— Marie Collins, a former member of the special papal commission on sexual abuse— closed out the Register symposium with a plea for effective action to safeguard children and to hold bishops responsible for enforcing standards. She said that the meeting should clearly establish “what accountability procedures are in place to deal with negligent Church leaders.”

 


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