The organizing committee for an international meeting on clerical sex abuse in February has sent a letter to participants urging each episcopal conference president to visit abuse survivors and to answer a short questionnaire.
The meeting of episcopal conference presidents is to take place Feb. 21-24 in Rome on the theme of “protection of minors and vulnerable adults,” and follows a raft of abuse cases that have come to light this year around the world.
“The first step must be acknowledging the truth of what has happened,” the letter says, noting that without a “comprehensive and communal response,” the healing of victim survivors cannot take place, and the “very credibility of the Church” will be in “jeopardy.”
“For this reason, we urge each episcopal conference president to reach out and visit with victim survivors of clergy sex abuse in your respective countries prior to the meeting in Rome, to learn first-hand the suffering that they have endured,” the letter adds.
It was signed by the four members of the organizing committee, Cardinals Blase Cupich of Chicago, Oswald Gracias of Bombay, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, and Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of the Center for the Protection of Minors.
In an accompanying statement, the Vatican said such personal encounters are a “concrete way of ensuring that victim survivors of clerical abuse are first and foremost in the minds of all at the February gathering as they come together ‘in solidarity, humility, and penitence’ to move forward in addressing the abuse crisis.”
It added that the bishops would also be following “the example of Pope Francis” by meeting with victim survivors before the Rome summit.
The Pope has regularly met with victims of abuse, most recently a group from Chile over several days in May and June this year, but also in Ireland in August and on other papal visits. He also said in January that “on Fridays — sometimes this is known and sometimes it is not known — I normally meet some of them.”
In addition, the letter includes a brief questionnaire that will be used in preparing for the meeting, aimed at identifying where reform is needed, and to obtain “a full picture of the situation in the Church.”
The Vatican said the organizing committee is making “steady progress,” and announced that the February gathering will focus on “three main themes of responsibility, accountability, and transparency as participants work together to respond to this grave challenge.”
LETTER OF ORGANIZING COMMITTEE TO PARTICIPANTS FOR FEB. 21-24 MEETING ON “PROTECTION OF MINORS AND VULNERABLE ADULTS”
Dear Brothers in Christ,
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26). With these words Pope Francis began his Letter to the People of God (August 2018) in response to the abuse crisis facing the Church. Those abused by clerics were also damaged when “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.” And so, “If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history.”
Absent a comprehensive and communal response, not only will we fail to bring healing to victim survivors, but the very credibility of the Church to carry on the mission of Christ will be in jeopardy throughout the world.
The first step must be acknowledging the truth of what has happened. For this reason, we urge each episcopal conference president to reach out and visit with victim survivors of clergy sex abuse in your respective countries prior to the meeting in Rome, to learn first-hand the suffering that they have endured.
Additionally, we ask you to answer the questionnaire attached to this letter. It provides a tool for all the participants of the meeting in February to express their opinions constructively and critically as we move forward, to identify where help is needed to bring about reforms now and in the future, and to help us get a full picture of the situation in the Church.
With this in mind, the Holy Father has asked us to thank you for your support in completing the attached questionnaire to better prepare for the meeting, and to urgently invite you to take up this road together. The Holy Father is convinced that through collegial cooperation, the challenges facing the Church can be met.
But each of us needs to own this challenge, coming together in solidarity, humility, and penitence to repair the damage done, sharing a common commitment to transparency, and holding everyone in the Church accountable.
Please note that we would be grateful to have your responses as soon as possible, but no later than January 15.
God bless in this Advent season,
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich
Cardinal Oswald Gracias
Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna
Fr. Hans Zollner SJ