The summit on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church began today in Vatican City with poignant victim statements. For example, there is this African woman who became pregnant three times by a bishop and was forcibly undergoing abortions, as well as the Chilean man who called bishops the “healers of the soul.” “But you became the murderers of it – and of faith.”
The anonymous African woman was only fifteen years old when the bishop first turned to her. She trusted him so blindly that she initially did not realize that she was being abused. “He gave me everything I wanted when I agreed to have sex,” she said according to news agency AP. “And otherwise he beat me. I was three times pregnant and he had me three times an abortion, just because he did not want to use contraceptives.”
The statements illustrated one of the points that Pope Francis wanted to make today against the 190 bishops, cardinals and religious present: sexual abuse in the church is a worldwide problem. And only talking about that is not enough; there must be solutions. “The holy people of God come along and expect not only simple and obvious convictions of the behavior, but efficient and concrete measures,” he said.
That is why the Pope presented 21 points for attention, including an idea for a handbook for dealing with abuse incidents. Such a book would come ‘laughably late’, judged Peter Isely, who himself was abused as a child and now leads an interest group, compared to the Reuters news agency. Countless victims have gathered in Rome to attend the summit. Although some people see the meeting as a step in the right direction, others think that it is mainly mustard after the meal.
Critics fear that the Catholic Church mainly organizes the event to polish its own reputation. It has been suffering for years among the countless scandals, while clergy all over the world still denies or downplay the abuse. “Why can the church deal with the pedophile question?” Said the leader of the main advocacy group in the Italian parliament. “The pedophile question is not about religion, but about crime.”
At the summit, which will last for three days, several clergies at least stuck in their own bosom. “We must recognize that the enemy is in our midst,” said Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez from Bogota.