Friday, February 22, 2019

Saint February 23 : St. Polycarp : Martyr : Patron of Against Earaches, and Dysentery


Feast Day:
February 23
155 at Smyrna
Patron of:
against dysentery, against earache

Saint Polycarp (69-155), whose feast day we celebrate today, was a holy and learned bishop of Smyrna—a second generation Christian who heard the word of the Lord directly from the apostle John. He is the first Christian martry whose acts of martyrdom were written at the time of his death, and preserved to demonstrate his faith and lack of fear in persecution. In a time of struggle an unrest in the fledgling faith, Polycarp, along with his friend Saint Ignatius of Antioch, looked to the life and Word of Christ as the example of how to celebrate the liturgy, how to worship, and how to live. Saint Ignatius said of Saint Polycarp, “Your mind is grounded in God as on an unmovable rock.”
Polycarp was Bishop of Smyrna at a time when Roman persecution of Christians was in full effect. Despite the constant rear of arrest, torture, and death, Polycarp remained resolute in his faith, candidly preaching his belief in Christ, and telling those of other faiths who demanded recognition and respect, “Yes I recognize you- I recognize you as the son of Satan.”
Polycarp was well-known in the early community as learned, patient, and wise. He demonstrated forgiveness, humility, and diplomacy in settling conflict and controversy in the Church. He wrote prolifically, although few of his work survives. Only one letter, a letter to the Philippians, has been preserved. In this letter, Polycarp summarizes and transmits the teachings of Christ:
“Therefore, prepare yourselves. Serve God in reverence and truth, leaving behind empty, fruitless talk and the deception of the crowd, believing in the one who raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and gave him glory and a throne at his right hand, to whom all things in heaven and earth are subject, whom every breathing thing worships, who is coming as judge of the living and dead, whose blood God will require from those who disobey him. But the one who raised him from the dead also will raise us if we do his will and follow in his commandments and love the things he loved—refraining from all unrighteousness, greediness, love of money, evil speech, and false witness, not paying back evil for evil or abuse for abuse or blow for blow or curse for curse, but remembering what the Lord said when he taught: Do not judge so that you may not be judged; forgive and then you will be forgiven; show mercy so that you will be shown mercy; with what measure you measure out it will be measured again to you; and that blessed are the poor and those being persecuted for the sake of righteousness; for theirs is the kingdom of God.” (Polycarp to the Philippians, 2) Saint Polycarp modeled his life after Christ. He did not seek out martyrdom as did some at the time, instead, like Jesus, waiting until the Lord decided it was his time. When the Romans, bloodthirsty for the death of Christians, called for his death at the hands of wild animals in the arena, Polycarp was persuaded by friends to hide in a small farmhouse outside of the populated area. While there, Polycarp had a dream in which his pillow caught fire, leading him to tell his followers that he would be martyred by fire. There he was eventually found, after the Romans tortured the servant boys providing him food. Hearing the soldiers approaching, Polycarp came out of hiding to greet them, saying “God’s will be done.” He offered them a meal, and asked permission to pray for one hour before being arrested. Given that he was 86 at the time, calm and gentle, and had showed them hospitality, the soldiers allowed him two hours of prayer, during which he prayed for the continuation of the Church, and “every person he had ever known.” Saint Polycarp was then led to the arena for martyrdom. Prior to release of the wild animals, expected to tear him to bits, the magistrate asked him to renounce Christ, unwilling to send an 86 year old man to his death. Polycarp answered, “Eighty six years have I been His servant, and He hath done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” Again, the magistrate asked for Polycarp to renounce his faith and pledge an oath of allegiance to Caesar. Polycarp responded, "If you imagine that I will swear by Caesar, you do not know who I am. Let me tell you plainly, I am a Christian." Running out of options, the magistrate begged Polycarp to change his mind, or else be thrown to the wild animals. Unafraid, Polycarp responded, "Change of mind from better to worse is not a change allowed to us."
Polycarp, due to his lack of apparent fear, was sentenced to being burned alive. As they were tying him to the stake and lighting the fire, Polycarp prayed to Heaven:
"Lord God Almighty, Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of you, God of angels and powers, of the whole creation and of the whole race of the righteous who live in your sight, I bless you, for having made me worthy of this day and hour, I bless you, because I may have a part, along with the martyrs, in the chalice of your Christ, to resurrection in eternal life, resurrection both of soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. May I be received today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, among those who are in you presence, as you have prepared and foretold and fulfilled, God who is faithful and true. For this and for all benefits I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, through whom be to you with him and the Holy Spirit glory, now and for all the ages to come. Amen."
The flames were lit, but miraculously did not touch the saint. Rather then spread around him like an arch, causing him to glow with a heavenly light. Seeing what was happening, the Roman soldiers stabbed him in the throat, killing him, his blood quenching the flames of the fire. His body was subsequently burned by the Romans to prevent him from being worshipped, although his bones were stolen by Christians and saved as relics. Saint Polycarp is an inspiration to us, especially during our Lenten season of preparation. He remained true in his faith, candid in his words, and did not go looking for a glorious martyr’s death. But when it came looking for him, he readily accepted the will of the Lord, proclaiming the Good News until the moment he expired. His courage and confidence in the face of persecution inspires us to step outside of our own perceived strength and power, and to look to Him who provides all for us—our Father in heaven. For he will provide us all that we need: hope, endurance, love, strength, and righteousness. All we need to do is repent, believe, and ask.
Therefore we should persevere unceasingly in our hope and down payment of our righteousness, which is Christ Jesus, who bore our sins in his own body on the tree, who committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth, but because of us, in order that we might live in him, endured all things. Therefore let us be imitators of his endurance, and if we should suffer because of his name, we should glorify him. For this is the example he set for us in himself, and this we have believed. (Polycarp to the Philippians, 8) Text shared from 365 Rosaries Blog

Pope Francis "...woman is the image of the Church that is woman, bride, mother."

Below, please find an unofficial translation of Pope Francis’ remarks:

Listening to Dr. Ghisoni, I heard the Church speaking about herself. That is, we have all spoken about the Church. In all the interventions. But this time it was the Church herself that spoke. It's not just a question of style: the feminine genius, reflected in the Church, which is woman.

Inviting a woman to speak is not to enter into the mode of an ecclesiastical feminism, because in the end every feminism ends up being a machismo with a skirt. No. Inviting a woman to speak about the wounds of the Church is to invite the Church to speak about herself, about the wounds she has. And this I believe is the step that we must take with great determination: woman is the image of the Church that is woman, bride, mother. A style. Without this style we would speak of the People of God, but as an organization, perhaps a trade union, but not as a family born of Mother Church.

The logic of Dr Ghisoni's thought was precisely that of a mother, and it ended with the story of what happens when a woman gives birth to a child. It is the feminine mystery of the Church that is bride and mother. It's not a question of giving more functions to women in the Church — yes, this is good, but that's not how the problem is solved — it's a question of integrating the woman as the image of the Church into our thinking… and also of thinking of the Church with the categories of a woman. Thank you for your testimony.

A Mother speaks at the Vatican Meeting against Abuse "...the duty of accountability." Dr. Linda Ghisoni - FULL TEXT + Video


[VATICAN, 21-24 FEBRUARY 2019]

New Hall of the Synod

Friday, 22 February 2019
Meeting of the Holy Father with the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences
Vatican, New Synod Hall, 22 February 2019
Communion: act together
Dr. Linda Ghisoni - Professor at the Faculty of Canon Law of the Pontifical Gregorian University - Undersecretary for the Section for the Laity of the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life
«It is a new betrayal that comes from within the Church. These people are, to
my eyes, howling wolves that penetrate the fold to scare further and disperse the
flock, while it should be really they, the Pastors of the Church, to take care of the
little ones and protect them».
In this witness of a woman, victim of abuse of conscience, power, and
sexuality by priests. These Pastors are “howling wolves” who have denied a priori
and who, even after the criminal facts are proved, have made her an object of
intimidation and have annihilated her dignity, defining her as “a person who, at
most, can pass between the frame and the wall” (useless and denied of all
Listening to witnesses such as this is not an exercise of commiseration, it is an
encounter with the flesh of Christ in which wounds are not healed, wounds which,
as you said, Holy Father, are not prescribed.
Kneeling: this would be the appropriate posture to deal with the topics of
these days. Kneeling before the victims and their families, in front of the abusers,
their collaborators, those that refuse, those who are unjustly accused, to the
negligent, to those who have covered up, to those who tried to speak up and act but
silenced, to the indifferent. Kneel before the merciful Father, who sees the
lacerated body of Christ, his Church. He sends us to take responsibility, as his
People, of the wounds and to cure them with the balm of His love.
I have nothing to teach you, Your Holiness, Your Eminences, Your
Lordships, Your Excellencies, Most Reverend Mothers and Reverend Fathers
convened here. I believe rather that actively listening to each other; we commit
ourselves to work so that in the future we no longer need another clamours event as
this meeting. The Church, the People of God, take care, in a competent,
responsible and loving way, those people implicated, with what happened, so that
the prevention does not end up in a beautiful programme, but becomes an attitude
in ordinary pastoral work.
1. Make accountability necessary and possible
In the face of inherent abnormality in every kind of abuse perpetrated against
minors, it is necessary; above all, the duty to know what happened, together with
the consciousness of its implication, the need for truth, justice, reparation and
prevention to achieve the non-recurrence of such abominations.
The knowledge of the abuses and of their entity is, obviously, the fundamental
starting point, after all it is not possible to foresee any prevention plan if we do not
know what to avoid. However, the knowledge of the facts and the definition of the
entity of the phenomenon, although necessary and fundamental, “by itself is not
enough” (FRANCESCO, Letter to the People of God, 20 August 2018, n.2). To
follow up the above mentioned requirements of truth, justice, reparation and
prevention, the assumption of the needed responsibility on the part of those who
are invested with it and consequently their duty to make it respected, which is the
need for accountability.
Accountability imposes a process of evaluation and reporting with respect to
choices made and objectives identified and more or less realized. It responds to
needs of social character, placing the person who has the responsibility to evaluate
not only by himself but also in front of the society in which he lives and for the
benefit of which he is called to perform a specific role.
However, accountability in the Church, contrary to what may seem, does not
respond primarily to social and organizational needs. And not even - always in the
first place - to the need for transparency, to which we are all called to pay special
attention for reasons of truth.
Such needs must not be neglected or minimized, are just, after all the Church
cannot be separated from what its institutional dimension requires, however these
social needs are not the foundation of accountability but is to be sought in the
nature of the Church as mystery of communion.
We know that the communion nature of the Church emerges particularly
thanks to Vatican II. Although, in truth, neither the dogmatic Constitution Lumen
Gentium nor the other ecclesiological documents seem to expressly emphasize the
ecclesiology of communion.
It was necessary to await the extraordinary Synod of Bishops of the year 1985
- convened to “meditate, deepen and promote the application of the teachings of
Vatican II twenty years after its conclusion” (JOHN PAUL II, Discourse to the
conclusion of the II extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 7 December
1985). So that the category of communion can be elaborated as an interpretative
cipher of the Church in the light of revelation. This emerges from the first, direct,
founding reference to the sacramental dimension of the Church, to that Trinitarian
mystery in which the Church recognises its real face. Though in a sacramental and
therefore analogical form: “veluti sacramentum”, “that is, as the sign and
instrument of the intimate union with God and of the unity of the whole human
race” (LG 1).
Basing solely on such a foundation, all action in the Church acquires
complete meaning: even an action characterized distinctly by needs of a social
character, as accountability may seem, must be brought back to the nature of the
Church itself, or to its communal dimension.
What can this mean in our specific area?
Not infrequently, I feel the preoccupation in the Church for the attention that
is dedicated to the issue of sexual abuse of minors. A priest, a few days ago,
exclaimed “Still? We continue talking about abuse! The Church's attention to this
theme is exaggerated”.
Even a practicing lady told me candidly: “It is better not to talk about these
matters, otherwise there will be distrust of the Church. Talking about it obscures
all the good done in the parishes. If it is seen by the Pope, the Bishops and by the
priests themselves”.
To speak, or not about the abuses themselves - of conscience, of power,
sexual - obscures the good that is lived in the parishes?!
To these people - and even before to myself - I say that becoming aware of
the phenomenon and understand one's responsibility is not a fixation. It is not an
accessory inquisitorial action to satisfy mere social needs, but an exigency
stemming from the same nature of the Church as a mystery of communion founded
in the Trinity. As People of God on their journey, that does not avoid, but faces,
with renewed communitarian awareness, even the challenges related to the abuses
occurring inside to the detriment of the young undermining and breaking this

2. Some consequent ecclesiological questions

Only by viewing the Church as a sacrament that signifies and realizes the
mystery of the Trinitarian communion, is possible to understand correctly the
variety of charisms, gifts and ministries in the Church, the variety of roles and
functions of the People of God.
2.1 The first crucial question that derives from what has been said is the
following. The faithful in the Church do not assign roles and assignments on a
social distributive basis for the needs of institutional functioning. We know well
that the common priesthood of the faithful, founded on baptism, makes Christians
to participate, precisely by virtue of baptism, in the triple munus of Christ the
priest, king and prophet (see LG 10).
The honest reference, therefore, to the Church as communion, as People of
God on journey, demands and urges that all the members of this People, each in
their own way, live consequently, the rights and duties to which they have been
made to partake in baptism. It is not a matter of grabbing places or functions or of
sharing power: the call to be People of God gives us a mission that everyone is
called to live according to the gifts received, not alone, but precisely as a People.
2.2 A second important question in the context of our discourse concerns the
correct understanding of the ordained ministry, especially in the relationship
between the Bishop and priests.
If on the one hand priests are required to be united to their Bishop with
sincere love and obedience, recognizing in him the authority of Christ as Supreme
Pastor, nonetheless the Bishops, as written in Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis al n.
7, should take “to heart, in all that they can, their [presbyters] material welfare and
above all spiritual. In fact, it is the Bishops who are primarily responsible for the
grave responsibility of the holiness of their priests: they must therefore take the
greatest care of the ongoing formation of their own priests (CD 15-16)”.

A correct relationship between the Bishop and priests leads to a real, taking

charge of the priests by the Bishop, materially and spiritually, on which lies in the
first place the responsibility for their sanctity.
It is necessary that the priestly ministry, at every level, availing itself of a
solid formation, be lived for what it is. As dedicated service to Christ and the
Church washing the feet, according to what Jesus did to the apostles, while
disappointing many of his contemporaries because he did not exercise the power
they expected. The priestly ministry lived as such preserves from every temptation
to caress the power, of self-referentiality and self-complacency, of supremacy and
exploitation of others to cultivate one’s own pleasure at all levels, even sexual.
How many priests, how many Bishops edify us with their ministry, with their
life of prayer, dedication and service, establishing healthy, free relations within the
People of God. To these priests we say our thanks, encouraging them and
supporting them in their life of holiness, and service in the vineyard of the Lord to
whom they are called!
2.3 Further note to be underlined, which derives from the view of Church
communion, the People of God on their journey, need to interact between the
various charisms and ministries. The Church becomes visible and active in her
communitarian nature if each baptized person lives and does what is proper to him,
if the diversity of charisms and ministries expressed in the necessary cohesion of
each one, while respecting differences.
The aforementioned conciliar document of 1965 dedicated to priests
stipulated not only “priests must recognize and sincerely promote the dignity of the
laity, as well as their specific role in the mission of the Church”. It also urged them
to be “ready to listen to the opinion of the laity, taking into account with fraternal
interest their aspirations and taking advantage of their experience and expertise in
the various fields of human activity, so as to be able to recognize the signs of the
times together”. In addition said, “Do not hesitate to entrust the laity with tasks at
the service of the Church, leaving them freedom of action and a reasonable margin
of autonomy, even inviting them suitably to undertake initiatives on their own with
full freedom” (PO 9).
Starting from the communio that constitutes the Church, we highlight a
necessary diversified contribution of all, not to reclaim the protagonism of
someone, but to make visible the multifaceted richness of the Church in respect of
the proprium of everyone, against the claim that the charism of synthesis is the
synthesis of the charisms.
2.4 Finally, it is necessary that the involvement of the whole People of God is
necessarily dynamic. The laity, the consecrated are not to be mere executors of
orders by clerics, but all are servants in the one vineyard, in which each one
contributes with his own contribution being himself involved in the discernment
that the Spirit suggests to the Church.
Undoubtedly, the ordained ministry, in its highest degree, the episcopal one,
bears upon itself the responsibility of making the ultimate decision, by virtue of the
power that is recognized to it, yet cannot act alone or limiting its discernment to a
few. It will be vital for the Bishops to make use of the contribution, the Council
and discernment that everyone in his Church, including the laity, is capable of, not
only for themselves and for personal choices, but as a Church and for the good of
the Church in the hic et nunc in which they are called to live.
It is always the communal foundation of the Church to show us the way and
the method, in this case a dynamism of involvement of the whole People of God
that leads to living, walking together, synodality as a shared process, in which each
has a different part, diversified responsibilities, but all constitute the one Church.
“In fact, as we read in the apostolic constitution Episcopalis Communio of 15
September 2018, the totality of the faithful, having the anointing that comes from
the Holy (cfr. 1Jn 2, 20, 27) cannot mistake in believing. Moreover, manifests this
belonging through the supernatural sense of faith of the whole People, when ‘from
the Bishops to the last lay faithful’, shows his universal consent in matters of faith
and morals (LG 12). [...] A Bishop who lives among his faithful has open ears to
hear ‘what the Spirit says to the Churches’ (Rev 2: 7) and the ‘voice of the sheep’,
even through those diocesan organisms who have the task to advise the Bishop,
promoting a loyal and constructive dialogue” (EC 5).
These reflections invite us to avoid two erroneous positions.
A Bishop cannot think that matters concerning the Church can be resolved by
him acting alone or exclusively among peers, according to the refrain: “Only a Bishop
can know what is good for Bishops”, or, similarly, “Only a priest knows what is good
for priests, only a layman for laymen, only a woman for women”, and so on.
Likewise, we can say that it is erroneous, in my view, to argue that the
involvement of the laity as such in matters that touch the ordained ministers is a
guarantee of greater correctness, as they would be “third parties” with respect to
events. From somewhere is invoked: “Let us set up a commission of laymen
because it is more credible than a commission of priests, who tend to be less
objective, to cover-up and defend a priori”.
As lay woman I must honestly note that among the priests, among the
religious, as among the laity there are people who are not free, but would be
willing to cover theoretically and collaborate with someone instead of giving a
loving, intelligent and free service of the Church and faithful to their own vocation.
Returning to the communal nature of the Church, where the diversity of
charisms and ministries are realized does not mean weakening but brings wealth
and strength, help to find the reasons to avoid these extreme and unproductive
3. Ideas for some practical implementation
Having presented the fundamentals and the issues recalled briefly, this
meeting gives us the opportunity to know what is being done in the Church. What
is to be implemented; to understand if it is true that this meeting convened by the
Pope does not constitute the point of arrival or conclusion of a path, validated and
perfect. It is equally true that it is not even the starting point, as if we can ignore
the magisterial interventions, normative and pastoral interventions so far promoted
and the numerous actions that have emerged.
3.1 The first idea is therefore the knowledge and study of those that are
already tested and effective, promoted in other ecclesial contexts, to other
episcopates. I refer to practices that contemplate the involvement of competent
people who represent the whole People of God because every baptized person,
animated by the Spirit, is able to express a sensus fidei from which the Church
cannot exclude.
In this context it is good to recognize the work of those who, in recent years,
have dedicated intelligence, heart and hands to this cause by listening to the
victims, elaborating protocols, guidelines, reviews and so on, using specific skills
drawn from the whole People of God.
Given the diversity due to various cultural and social contexts in which the
Church is present, there should not be a business class in some particular churches
and an economy class in others. The one Church of Christ should expressed
everywhere, guaranteeing all, everywhere, tools, procedures, criteria that, beyond
the necessary local peculiarities, minors are protected pursuing truth, justice,
promoting reparation and prevention in theme of sexual abuse.
3.2 In the National Guidelines, a specific chapter is to be inserted that
determines reasons and procedures of accountability. The Bishops and Religious
Superiors establish an ordinary verification procedure for the accomplishment of
what is foreseen and a motivation for the actions taken or not, thus not to be in
need to have to justify later the reasons for a given behaviour, subjecting it to the
needs of the moment, perhaps linked to a defensive action.
To foresee an ordinary procedure of verification that should not be
misunderstood as a lack of trust towards the Superior or the Bishop. Rather to be
considered as an aid that allows him to focus, first at himself and at the best
moment, that is when all the elements are clear and concurrent, the reason for a
certain action taken or omitted. To say that the Bishop must always give a report of
his work to someone does not mean subjecting him to a control or putting him in a
priori distrust, but engaging him in the dynamics of ecclesial communion where all
the members act in a coordinated way, according to their own charisms and
ministries. If a priest gives report to the community, to the priests and to his
Bishop for his work, a bishop to whom does he give a report. What accountability
is he subject to? Identifying an objective method of accountability not only does
not weaken his authority, but value him as shepherd of a flock, in his own function
that is not separated from the people for whom he is called to give life. It may also
happen, as for each of us, that from "giving report" springs awareness of an error,
it becomes obvious that the path taken was wrong, perhaps because at that moment
one thought - wrongly - of acting for the good. This will not constitute a judgment
from which to defend oneself in order to recover credit, a stain on one's own
honourability, a threat to one's own ordinary and immediate power (cfr. CD 8a).
On the contrary, this will be the witness of a journey made together, which alone
can find the discernment of truth, justice and charity. The logic of communion
does not stand an accusation and a defence, but working together (“con-correre”
precisely, only in communion) for the good of all. Accountability is therefore a
form, today even more necessary, in this logic of communion.
To start locally, on a diocesan or regional level, councils that operate in a
coresponsible manner with the Bishops and Religious Superiors, supporting them
in this task with competence. And acting as a place of verification and discernment
with regard to the initiatives to be undertaken, even without substituting them or
engaging in decisions that fall under the direct jurisdictional responsibility of the
Bishop or of the Superior. It can be an example and a model of a healthy
collaboration of laity, religious, and clergy in the life of the Church.
3.3 It is desirable that in the territory of each Episcopal Conference,
independent consultative commissions are to be created to advise and assist the
Bishops and Religious Superiors and to promote a uniform level of responsibility
in the various Dioceses. These commissions are composed of lay people, without
excluding religious and clerics. It would not be a case of people who judge the
Bishops, but of faithful who give their advice and assistance to the Pastors, also
evaluating their actions with gospel criteria, and who also inform the faithful of the
territory about the appropriate procedures.
These national advisory committees, in turn, through regular reports and
meetings, can contribute to ensuring greater uniformity of practices and an
increasingly effective confrontation, so that particular Churches learn from each
other in the spirit of mutual trust and communion, with the aim of actively taking
on and sharing concern for the smallest and most vulnerable.
3.4 It is opportune to examine about a central office - not of accountability
that is instead to be evaluated in the local area - to promote the formation of these
organisms properly with ecclesial identity. Promote and verify regularly the correct
functioning of what had been started at the local level; with attention to the
correctness also from the ecclesiological point of view, in a way that the charisms
and ministries in the group are all adequately represented and each one can
contribute with their own specific participation while preserving the liberty of each

3.5 It needs to revise the current legislation on pontifical secrecy, in a way

that it protects the values it intends to protect. Namely the dignity of the persons
involved, the good reputation of each other, the good of the Church, but at the
same time allow the development of a climate of greater transparency and trust,
avoiding the idea that the secret is to hide problems rather than to protect the assets
at stake.
3.6 It will also be necessary to refine criteria for a correct communication in a
time like ours in which the requirements of transparency must be balanced with
those of confidentiality: in fact, an unjustified confidentiality, as well as an
uncontrolled disclosure, risk generating bad communication and not to render a
service to the truth. Accountability is also to know how to communicate. If you do
not communicate, how can you be accountable to others? So what communion can
there be among us?
These considerations just mentioned regarding the possible actions to be
performed as Church, as People of God in communion and with co-responsibility,
does not constitute if not for solicitation to a reflection and cross-comparison,
especially in group work, in order to stimulate insights and concrete applications.
In fact, as the Letter to the People of God urges us, today “we are called upon as
the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers wounded in the flesh and in
the spirit. If in the past the omission could become a form of response, today we
want the solidarity, understood in its deepest and most demanding meaning, to
become our way of making present and future history”. 

Indian Cardinal Gracias at Meeting against Abuse "..abuse of minors...not only breaks divine and ecclesiastical law, it is also public criminal behaviour." FULL TEXT + Video

22 February 2019
Accountability in a Collegial and Synodal Church
Cardinal Oswald Gracias
Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and the subsequent failure to address it
in an open, accountable, and effective way has caused a multifaceted crisis that has
gripped and wounded the Church, not to speak of those who have been abused.
Although the experience of abuse seems dramatically present in certain parts of the
world, it is not a limited phenomenon. Indeed, the entire Church must take an
honest look, undertake rigorous discernment, and then act decisively to prevent
abuse from occurring in the future and to do whatever possible to foster healing for
The importance and universal scope of this challenge has prompted Pope
Francis to summon us to this meeting, underscoring his commitment and the
Church’s commitment to addressing this crisis. Even more, by inviting the
presidents of national conferences of bishops, he is signalling how the Church must
address this crisis. For him and for those of us gathered with him, it will be the
path of collegiality and synodality. That way of being the Church will then—with
God’s help—shape and define how the whole Church at the regional, national,
local-diocesan, and even parochial levels will take up the task of addressing sexual
abuse in the Church. Thus, synodality can truly be lived, by incorporating all
decisions and the resulting measures at all these different levels - on a binding basis.
This includes the involvement of lay people, both men and women. In doing so, we
should remain honest, and ask ourselves: do we really want this? What are we
actually doing towards this? Are we only undertaking alibi measures for a synodal
church, and in reality actually wish to remain among ourselves as bishops - in “our”
conferences, in “our” commissions, in "our" meetings, in which non-bishops and
non-clergy only play an insignificant role? Now is not the time and place to go into
detail, but if we do not only speak of a synodal church but also want to live it, then
we must also learn to practice other forms of management, and learn how we can
conduct synodical processes. If we do not do all of this, then the talk of synodality
in the context of the topic of abuse only serves to conceal inconsistent behaviour,
i.e. in the critical and difficult field of abuse, deflecting responsibility onto lay
people (men and women), but otherwise denying them the opportunity to take
Permit me to frame this in a personal perspective. No bishop should say to
himself, “I face these problems and challenges alone.” Because we belong to the
college of bishops in union with the Holy Father, we all share accountability and
responsibility. Collegiality is an essential context for addressing wounds of abuse
inflicted on victims and on the Church at large. We bishops need to return to the
teaching of the Second Vatican Council often, in order to find ourselves in the
larger mission and ministry of the Church. Consider these words from Lumen
gentium: “The individual bishops, who are placed in charge of particular churches,
exercise their pastoral government over the portion of the People of God
committed to their care…but each of them, as a member of the episcopal college
and legitimate successor of the apostles, is obliged by Christ's institution and
command to be solicitous for the whole Church.” (n.23)
The point is clear. No bishop may say to himself, “This problem of abuse in
the Church does not concern me, because things are different in my part of the
world.” We are each responsible for the whole church. We hold accountability and
responsibility together. We extend our concern beyond our local Church to
embrace all the churches with which we are in communion.
As we take up our collegial and collective sense of accountability and
responsibility, we will inevitably encounter a certain dialectic. For our collegiality
does indeed express the variety and universality of the People of God, but also the
unity of the flock of Christ. There is, in other words, an abiding need to appreciate
the great diversity in the lived experience of the churches spread throughout the
world because of their history, culture, and customs. At the same time, we must
also appreciate and foster our unity, our single mission and purpose which is to be
“…in the nature of sacrament—a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with
God and of unity among all people.” (LG, n. 1) In our church, we urgently need
further development of intercultural competences, which ultimately must prove
their worth by successful intercultural communication, and corresponding wellfounded decision-making.
Practically, this means that as we address the scourge of sexual abuse
together, that is, collegially, we must do so with a singular and unified vision as
well as with the flexibility and adaptiveness that stems from the diversity of people
and situations in our universal care.
In this context, we must also ask ourselves fundamentally whether we
adequately live what is meant by the concepts of collegiality and synodality.
Collegiality and synodality must not only remain theoretical concepts, which are
extensively described but not put into practice. In this regard, I still see plenty of
scope for further developments. Perhaps we can make progress, if we can clarify
the following points.
 It cannot be disregarded that dealing with the topic of abuse in the right way
has been difficult for us in the church, for various reasons. We as bishops
also bear responsibility for this. For me, this raises the question: do we really
engage in an open conversation and point out honestly to our brother bishops
or priests when we notice problematic behaviour in them? We should
cultivate a culture of correctio fraterna, which enables this without
offending each other, and at the same time recognise criticism from a
brother as an opportunity to better fulfil our tasks.
 Closely related to this point is willingness to personally admit mistakes to
each other, and to ask for help, without feeling the need to maintain the
pretence of own perfection. Do we really have the kind of fraternal
relationship, where in such cases we don't have to worry about damaging
ourselves, simply because we show weakness?
 For a bishop, the relationship with the Holy Father is of constitutive
significance. Every bishop is obliged to directly obey and follow the Holy
Father. We should ask ourselves honestly, whether on this basis we don’t
sometimes think that our relationship with the other bishops is not so
important, especially if the brothers have a different opinion, and/or if they
feel the need to correct us. Do we perhaps ignore the input from our
brothers, because ultimately only the Pope can give us orders in any case,
and therefore collegiality is easy to ignore, or in such cases has no relevant
 If in such contexts we ourselves always refer back to Rome, we shouldn't
wonder if a certain Roman centralism does not sufficiently take into account
the diversity in our brotherhood, and our local church competencies and our
skills as responsible shepherds of our local churches are not appropriately
used, and thereby the practically lived collegiality suffers. If we want to and
must revitalise our collegiality, then we also need a discussion between the
Roman Curia and our bishops' conferences. We can always only take
responsibility for something insofar as we are allowed to do so, and the more
responsibility we are granted, the better we can serve our own flock.
 Whether it is the relationship between us local bishops and Rome, or the
relationship of the bishops among themselves, one important aspect should
be clear. Collegiality can only be lived and practised on the basis of
communication. We must ask ourselves whether we really utilise all forms
of modern, regular and sustainable communication, or whether we are still
lagging behind. In all honesty, I do believe that we could improve in this
regard, for example both in terms of speed of information exchange, as well
as in the forms of participation for opinion formation, and the forms of
I am firmly convinced that there are no real alternatives to collegiality and
synodality in our interaction. But before I note some practical consequences for
addressing sexual abuse in the Church from a collegial perspective, permit me to
summarise the challenge that we face together.
The Challenge of Sexual Abuse in the Church
The sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults in the Church reveals a
complex web of interconnected factors including: psychopathology, sinful moral
decisions, social environments that enable abuse to happen, and often inadequate
or plainly harmful institutional and pastoral responses, or a lack of response. The
abuse perpetrated by clerics (bishops, priests, deacons) and others serving in the
Church (e.g. teachers, catechists, coaches) results in incalculable damage that is
both direct and indirect. Most importantly, abuse inflicts damage on the survivors.
This direct damage can be physical. Inevitably, it is psychological with all the
long-term consequences of any serious emotional trauma related to a profound
betrayal of trust. Very often, it is a form of direct spiritual damage that shakes faith
and severely disrupts the spiritual journey of those who suffer abuse, sometimes
spiralling them into despair.
The indirect damage of abuse often results from a failed or inadequate
institutional response to the sexual abuse. Included in that kind of indirect and
damaging response might be: failure to listen to victims or to take their claims
seriously, not extending care and support to victims and their families, giving
priority to protecting institutional and financial concerns (for example, by “hiding”
abuse and abusers) over and above the care of victims, failing to withdraw abusers
from situations that would enable them to abuse other victims, and not offering
programmes of formation and screening for those who work with children and
vulnerable adults. As serious as the direct abuse of children and vulnerable adults
is, the indirect damage inflicted by those with directive responsibility within the
Church can be worse by re-victimising those who have already suffered abuse.
Addressing sexual abuse in the Church represents a complex and multifaceted
challenge, perhaps unprecedented in the Church’s history because of today’s
communications and global connections. This makes collegiality even more
decisive in our current situation. But how ought a collegial Church respond to that
challenge? If we use the elements of collegiality as a lens for viewing and
addressing the crisis, we can perhaps begin to make some progress. Surely,
addressing the crisis does not mean a quick or definitive resolution. We will need
to begin courageously and persevere resolutely on the road together.
For now, I want to indicate three themes that I consider especially important
for our reflection: justice, healing, and pilgrimage.

The sexual abuse of others, most especially minors, is rooted in an unjust
sense of entitlement: “I can claim this person for my use and abuse.” Although
sexual abuse is many things, such as a breach of trust and a betrayal of confidence,
it is at root an act of grave injustice. Victim-survivors speak of their sense of being
unjustly violated. A fundamental task that belongs to all of us individually and
collegially is to restore justice to those who have been violated. There are multiple
levels at work in this process of restoration. Of course, we must stand for and
promote God’s justice and implement the standards of justice that belong to our
Church community. Ecclesiastical law and process must be implemented fairly and
effectively. There is, however, more to the story.
The sexual abuse of minors and other vulnerable people not only breaks
divine and ecclesiastical law, it is also public criminal behaviour. The Church does
not only live in an isolated world of its own making. The Church lives in the world
and with the world. Those who are guilty of criminal behaviour are justly
accountable to civil authority for that behaviour. Although the Church is not an
agent of the state, the Church recognises the legitimate authority of civil law and
the state. Therefore, the Church cooperates with civil authorities in these matters to
bring justice to survivors and to the civil order.
Complications ensue when there are antagonistic relations between the
Church and the state or, even more dramatically, when the state persecutes or
stands ready to persecute the Church. These kinds of circumstances underscore the
importance of collegiality. Only in a network of strong relationships among the
bishops and the local Churches working together can the Church navigate the
turbulent waters of Church-state conflict and, at the same time, appropriately
address the crime of sexual abuse. There is a double need that only collegiality can
address: the need for shared wisdom and the need for supportive encouragement.

In addition to standing for justice, a collegial Church stands for healing.
Certainly, that healing must reach out to the victims of abuse. It must also extend
to others who are affected including the communities whose trust was betrayed or
severely tested.
For effective healing to happen, there must be clear, transparent, and
consistent communication from a collegial Church to victims, members of the
Church, and society at large. In that communication, the Church offers several
The first message, directed especially to victims, is a respectful outreach and
an honest acknowledgement of their pain and hurt. Although this would seem to be
obvious, it has not always been communicated. Ignoring or minimising what
victims have experienced only exacerbates their pain and delays their healing.
Within a collegial Church, we can summon each other to attentiveness and
compassion that enable us to make this outreach and acknowledgement.
The second message must be an offer to heal. There are many paths to
healing, from professional counselling to support groups of peers and other means
as well. In a collegial Church, we can exercise our imagination and develop these
various paths of healing which we can, in turn, communicate to those who are
A third important message is to identify and implement measure to protect
young and vulnerable people from future abuse. Again, it takes a collective
wisdom and a shared imagination to develop the ways of protecting young people
and avoiding the tragedy of abuse. That can happen in a collegial Church which
assumes responsibility for the future.
A fourth and final message is directed to society at large. Our Holy Father has
wisely and correctly said that abuse is a human problem. It is not, of course,

limited to the Church. In fact, it is a pervasive and sad reality across all sectors of
life. Out of this particularly challenging moment in the life of the Church, we—
again in a collegial context—can draw on and develop resources which can be of
great service to a larger world. The grace of this moment can actually be our ability
to serve a great need in the world from our experience in the Church.
As we face the tragedy of sexual abuse in the Church, as we encounter the
suffering of victims, we are never more conscious of our status as the pilgrim
people of God. We know that we have not yet arrived at our destination. We are
aware that our journey has not been along a straight path. The Second Vatican
Council captured this so well in Lumen gentium: “Already the final age of the
world is with us and the renewal of the world is irrevocably under way; it is even
now anticipated in a certain real way, for the Church on earth is endowed already
with a sanctity that is real though imperfect. However, until there be realised new
heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church, in its
sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of
this world which will pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures
which groan and travail yet and await the revelation of the sons and daughters of
God.” (n. 48)
To be the pilgrim people of God does not simply mean that we have a certain
unfinished status, although that is indeed the case. To be the pilgrim people of God
means that we are a community that is called to continuous repentance and
continuous discernment. We must repent—and do so together, collegially—
because along the way we have failed. We need to seek pardon. We must also be in
a process of continuous discernment. In other words, together or collegially, we
need to watch, wait, observe, and discover the direction that God is giving us in the
circumstances of our lives. There is more ahead of us. As the abuse crisis has
unfolded, we have come to know that there is no easy or quick solution. We are
summoned to move forward step by step and together. That requires discernment.
Recently, in a very different context, the bishops of the Congo came together
and acted collegially. With great courage and determination, they addressed the
social and political challenges of their nation. They did so, not one by one but
rather together, collegially. In their mutual and shared support, they brought forth a
witness to what lived collegiality can mean and how effective it can be.
As we reflect on the abuse crisis which has afflicted the Church, we do well to
draw from their example and recognise the power of collegiality in addressing the
most challenging issues that face us.
In order for us to move forward with a clear sense of accountability and
responsibility in a context of collegiality, there are—as I see it—at least four
requisites which I offer for your consideration.
To take up collegiality in order to address our accountability and
responsibility, we must:
 claim, or better reclaim, our identity in the apostolic college united with
Peter’s successor, and we must do so with humility and openness;
 summon courage and fortitude, because the path ahead is not mapped out
with great detail and clear-cut precision;
 embrace the path of practical discernment, because we want to fulfil what
God wants of us in the concrete circumstances of our lives;
 be willing to pay the price of following God’s will in uncertain and painful

If we do these things, we will be able to move forward collegially on a path of
accountability and responsibility. But notice that all these actions are not simply
our actions, they are the work of the Holy Spirit: to claim identity or to know who
we are, to live with courage and fortitude, to be discerning, and to be generous in
service. So, let the last word be Veni, Sancte Spiritus, veni.
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Cardinal Gomez at Vatican Meeting against Abuse "Listening to the victims begins by..." FULL TEXT + Video

21 February 2019
Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez
Archbishop of Bogotá
Introduction and context
We are responding today to a very concrete question in the face of the crisis
that we are experiencing in the Church. What is the responsibility of the bishop? In
order to understand this responsibility and to assume it, it is imperative that we try
to define, as far as possible, the nature of the crisis.
A brief analysis of what has happened shows us that it is not only a matter of
sexual deviations or pathologies in the abusers, but that there is a deeper root too.
This is the distortion of the meaning of ministry, which converts it into a means to
impose force, to violate the conscience and the bodies of the weakest. This has a
name: clericalism.

Moreover, in analyzing the way in which this crisis has generally been
responded to, we encounter a mistaken understanding of how to exercise ministry
that has led to serious errors of authority which have increased the severity of the
crisis. This has a name: clericalism.
It is this reality that the Holy Father Pope Francis describes in his letter to
God's people in August of last year: “This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of
understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where
sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the
case with clericalism … To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all
forms of clericalism.”
Clear words that urge us to go to the root of the problem in order to face it.
But it is not easy “to say “no” to abuse (and thereby) to say an emphatic “no” to
all forms of clericalism”, because it is a mentality that has permeated our Church
throughout the ages. Also, we are hardly ever aware that it underlies our way of
conceiving ministry and acting at decisive moments. This observation means that it
is necessary to unmask the underlying clericalism and bring about a change of
mentality; in more precise terms, this change is called conversion.
Fundamentally, our responsibility is a meticulous coherence between our
words and our actions. The mentality behind our words must undergo a thorough
revision so that our words and actions correspond to God's will in the Church at
this time.
This invitation to conversion is addressed to the whole Church, but first of all
to us who are her pastors.

1.1. The Bishop's Responsibility as Pastor
As Bishops, our responsibility begins by constantly increasing our awareness
that we are nothing on our own. We can do nothing on our own, since it is not we
who have chosen the ministry but the Lord who has chosen us (cf. Jn 15:16-18) to
make his salvation present through the acting of the Church, without tarnishing his
presence with the darkness of our counter-witness.
Aware of this task, we have to admit that many times the Church - in the
persons of her bishops - did not know (and still, at times, does not know) how to
behave as she should in order to face the crisis caused by abuses quickly and
decisively. We often proceed like the hirelings who, on seeing the wolf coming,
flee and leave the flock unprotected. And we flee in many ways: trying to deny the
dimension of the denunciations presented to us; not listening to the victims;
ignoring the damage caused to the victims of abuse; transferring the accused to
other places where they continue to abuse; or trying to reach monetary settlements
to buy silence. Acting in this way, we clearly manifest a clerical mentality that
leads us to misunderstand the institution of the Church and place it above the
suffering of the victims and the demands of justice. This mentality accepts the
justifications of the perpetrators over the testimony of those affected. It silences the
cry of pain of the victimized so as to avoid the public noise that a denunciation
before civil authorities or a trial can provoke. It takes counterproductive measures
that ignore the good of the communities and the most vulnerable. Relying
exclusively on the advice of lawyers, psychiatrists and specialists of all kinds, it
neglects any deep sense of compassion and mercy. It goes even so far as to lie or
distort the facts so as not to confess the horrible reality that presents itself.
This mentality is manifest in the tendency to affirm that the Church is not
and need not be subject to the power of civil authority, like other citizens, but that
we can and must handle all our affairs within the Church governed solely by
Canon Law. This mentality goes so far as to regard the intervention of civil
authority as an undue intrusion - which, in these times of growing secularism, can
be alleged to be persecution against the faith.
We have to recognize this crisis in its full depth: to realize that the damage is
not done by outsiders but that the first enemies are within us, among us bishops
and priests and consecrated persons who have not lived up to our vocation. We
have to recognize that the enemy is within.
Recognizing and confronting the crisis - overcoming our clerical mentality -
also means not to minimize it by asserting that abuses occur on a larger scale in
other institutions. The fact that abuses occur in other institutions and groups can
never justify the occurrence of abuses in the Church, because it contradicts the
very essence of the ecclesial community and constitutes a monstrous distortion of
the priestly ministry which, by its very nature, must seek the good of souls as its
supreme end. There is no possible justification for not denouncing, not unmasking,
not courageously and forcefully confronting any abuse that presents itself within
our Church.
We also have to recognize that the press and other media and social networks
have been very important in helping us to face the crisis rather than sidestep it. The
media do a valuable job in this regard, a job that needs to be supported. As Pope
Francis put it in his Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia “In discussing this
scourge, some within the Church take to task certain communications
professionals, accusing them of ignoring the overwhelming majority of cases of
abuse that are not committed by clergy – the statistics speak of more than 95% –

and accusing them of intentionally wanting to give the false impression that this
evil affects the Catholic Church alone. I myself would like to give heartfelt thanks
to those media professionals who were honest and objective and sought to unmask
these predators and to make their victims’ voices heard. Even if it were to involve
a single case of abuse (something itself monstrous), the Church asks that people
not be silent but bring it objectively to light, since the greater scandal in this
matter is that of cloaking the truth.”
There is no doubt that we have already done a great deal to address the crisis
of abuse. However, had it not been for the valuable insistence of victims and the
pressure exerted by the media, we might not have decided to face this shameful
crisis to this degree. The damage caused is so deep, the pain inflicted is so
profound, the consequences of the abuses that have taken place in the Church are
so immense that we will never be able to say that we have done all that can be
done. It is our responsibility leads us to work every day so that abuses never
happen again in the Church and so that those who eventually do perpetrate abuse
receive the punishment they deserve and make appropriate amends.
1.2. The responsibility of the bishop as a member of the episcopal
college under the supreme authority of the Church
The bishop is not alone in dealing with this crisis and in the process of
conversion that he must undergo in order to face it. His ministry is a collegial
ministry. By his episcopal ordination, the bishop becomes part of the college
formed by all the successors of the apostles under the guidance and authority of the
successor of the apostle Peter. More than ever we must feel called to strengthen our
fraternal bonds, to enter into true communal discernment, to act always with the
same norms and to support each other in making decisions. Our strength can
double if deep unity marks our being and acting.
To help us in this task, the popes have enlightened us with their words; and
the different dicasteries of the Roman Curia have issued instructions that show us
the road we have to travel. We already know how to proceed, but it seems
desirable that a “Code of Conduct” be offered to the bishop which, in harmony
with the “Directory for Bishops”, clearly shows what the bishop's course of action
should be in the context of this crisis. Pope Francis, in his apostolic letter in the
form of his motu proprio “Like a loving mother”, presents us with the requirements
for a bishop's action and his removal in the case of proven gross negligence. The
“Code of Conduct” will clarify and demand of us the conduct that is proper to the
bishop. Its obligatory nature will be a guarantee that we all act in unison and in the
right direction, since it gives us clear norms to control our conduct and provides
concrete suggestions for the necessary corrective measures. It will be a guide for
the Church and society as well, allowing everyone to properly assess the bishop's
actions in specific cases and giving us all the confidence that we are doing well. It
will also be a concrete way of strengthening the communion that is born of
episcopal collegiality.
The ongoing formation of the bishop has been a constant concern of the
Church. Changing times pose new challenges to which the bishop must respond.
As we face this crisis we need to be in a permanent process of being updated,
formed and instructed, so that our response will always be the right one. This too is
an obligatory matter since the world needs to see perfect unity in our response.
Here again, the crisis calls for a conversion that goes to the depths of our
ecclesial acting. The present encounter is a clear sign and a real opportunity to
grow in this spirit of communion.

The bishop also has responsibility for the sanctification of priests and
consecrated persons. This responsibility encompasses a wide range of activity that
begins with the discernment of the vocation of future priests and consecrated
persons, continues in initial formation, and persists throughout the entire existence
of those who have been called to a life of total dedication to the service of the
Church. In the light of the crisis unleashed by reports of sexual abuse by clerics,
this responsibility has acquired special dimensions, in which the closeness of the
bishop becomes indispensable. The permanent dialogue - of friend, brother, father
- that allows the bishop to know his priests and to accompany them in their joys
and sorrows, in their achievements and failures, in their difficulties and successes,
is the unwavering manner in which the bishop must travel in his relationship with
his priests.
And what is our responsibility to abusive priests? As bishops, we must fulfil
our duty to confront immediately the situation that arises from a denunciation.
Every denunciation must immediately trigger the procedures that are specified both
in canon law and in the civil law of each nation, according to the guidelines
established by each episcopal conference. The guidelines help us to distinguish
between sin subject to divine mercy, ecclesial crime subject to canonical
legislation, and civil crime subject to the corresponding civil legislation. These are
fields that should not be confused and which, when properly distinguished and
separated, allow us to act with full justice. Today it is clear to us that any
negligence on our part can lead to canonical penalties, including removal from
ministry, and civil penalties that can even lead to imprisonment for concealment or
Throughout the canonical process, it is essential that the accused be heard.
The bishop's gracious closeness is a first step toward the recovery of the offender.
Conscientiously following the guidelines drawn by the episcopal conference
allows the bishop to demonstrate for his diocese the route that will be followed in
the various cases of accusations of abuse by a cleric. The special care that is taken
in this implementation will determine to a large extent whether the case is treated
with full justice. But it is not enough to prosecute and convict the accused, when
the fault is proven; it is also necessary to provide for his treatment so that there is
no relapse.
How justice is implemented concretely in the different processes that deal with
abusive clerics is one of the most important factors in overcoming the crisis with
regard to the health of priests, since one often hears people say, “Where are the
rights of priests?” Yes, there are cases of rightly accused priests and consecrated
persons; but this cannot, under any circumstances, justify unfair treatment of the
offenders. In the preliminary investigations, in both canonical and civil processes,
safeguarding the inalienable rights of the possible perpetrators has been and must
always be a concern. Furthermore, it has often been the fear of violating these
rights that has led to actions that were later described as cover-up and complicity.
However, we must be clear that the rights of the perpetrators - for example, to their
good reputation, to the exercise of their ministry, to continue leading a normal life
within society - can never take precedence over the rights of the victims, of the
weakest, of the most vulnerable.
How have Catholics reacted to the scandal of abuses by clergy and
consecrated persons? There is no unequivocal answer to that, but once again it has

been noted that for the vast majority of both Catholics and non-Catholics, the
Church is identified with her priests and consecrated persons. It is the Church that
is held responsible for what has happened. This should motivate us to grow ever
closer to the people of God who are called to grow each day in their awareness of
belonging to the Church and of feeling co-responsible for her.
It is in the context of being close to God's people that we must situate our
approach to the victims of abuse. And our first duty is to listen to them. One of the
first sins committed at the beginning of the crisis was precisely not having listened
with open hearts to those who charged that they had been abused by clerics.
Listening to the victims begins by not minimizing the pain and damage that
were caused. In many cases it was thought that the only motive behind the
denunciations was to seek financial compensation. “The only thing they are
looking for is money” was the recurrent phrase. There is no doubt that accusations
are sometimes orchestrated. There is also no doubt that on many occasions,
attempts have been made to reduce the redress to the victims in terms of monetary
compensation without taking into account the true scope of that reparation. And
there is no doubt that on many occasions, we have also given in to the temptation
to try to fix unsustainable situations with money in order to silence a probable
scandal. This harmful reality must not stop us, however, from becoming aware of
our serious and grave responsibility for the redress and compensation of victims.
Money can never repair the damage caused, but it becomes necessary in many
cases so that the victims can pursue the psychotherapeutic treatments they need,
which are generally very expensive. Some victims have been unable to recover
from the damage caused; they cannot work and need economic support to survive.
For some the pecuniary recognition becomes part of recognizing the damage
caused. It is clear that we are obliged to offer them all the necessary means -
spiritual, psychological, psychiatric, social - for their recovery.
The responsibility of the bishop is very broad and covers many fields, but it is
always inescapable.
In his address to the American cardinals in 2002 St. John Paul II gave the
essential direction that all our efforts must follow to overcome the current crisis:
“So much pain, so much sorrow must lead to a holier priesthood, a holier
episcopate, and a holier Church”. With the Lord's help and with our docility to his
grace we will make this crisis lead to a profound renewal of the whole Church with
holier bishops, more aware of their mission as pastors and fathers of the flock; with
holier priests and consecrated persons, more dedicated to exemplary service to
God's people; with a holier people of God, more aware of their co-responsibility to
build permanently a Church of communion and participation, where everyone,
especially children and adolescents, always finds a safe place that will promote
their human growth and their living of the faith. In this way we will contribute to
eradicating the culture of abuse in the world in which we live.
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