A Cardinal Sin: Catholic Church at Stake in Sexual Abuse Summit
WASHINGTON - February 18, 2019
Pope Francis has admitted what the world has long known: Catholic clergy have repeatedly sexually harassed nuns in their parishes. According to the Vatican head, the abuse still occurs. The Papal Confederation on the topic of combating sexual harassment will be held in Rome from February 21 to 24.
The Church is a powerful organization seeking to preserve autonomy from the rest of the world. One of the strategies for achieving this goal is the non-proliferation of information about "internal Church affairs." However, as a result, even the most egregious cases of abuse of power may be hidden from the public.
The Catholic Church, under pressure from the media and the public, has now officially recognized cases of violence against nuns by the clergy. "It's true, and it's a problem," the Pontiff confirmed.
The Vatican has reportedly sought to downplay expectations surrounding the four-day meeting that begins on Thursday. But survivors and advocacy groups say it must deliver clear outcomes if it is to begin to restore the Church's damaged credibility on the issue and avoid being seen as a talking shop.
The defrocking of former Archbishop and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, one of the Church's most prominent figures, sent a strong signal from the Vatican that sexual abuse will no longer be swept under the carpet. Francis asked for prayers for the summit on Sunday, calling abuse "an urgent challenge of our time."
In addition, in Francis’ opinion, the abuse of nuns was committed, and still is committed, by priests and bishops. In some cases, clergy even detained nuns in the literal sense as "sex slaves." In one case, an Indian bishop has been accused of repeatedly raping a nun over a two-year period.
It is expected that Francis will be present throughout the summit; he also openly stated that the trust in the Church was "strongly at stake."
Francis said the Vatican is trying to solve the problem by any means necessary: Some monasteries were dissolved, and the clergy were removed from service or deprived of Church rank. Exact data and names were not given.
Francis was supported by his main followers, saying the Church will not leave aside such high-profile cases.
Father Federico Lombardi said in Rome: "We must deal with this theme with depth and without fear."
Conceding there had been "resistance" by some bishops, he added: "If we don't commit ourselves to fight against these crimes, in society and in the Church, then we're not fulfilling our duty."
Massimo Faggioli, a Church historian and professor of theology, has said: "In my opinion, [this is] the most serious crisis in the Catholic Church since the Protestant Reformation." The issue, he added, was being used to "radically delegitimize" Francis's papacy.
The presidents of 115 bishops' conferences from around the world have also been invited to Rome. Along with that, bishops were urged to meet with survivors of sexual abuse in their countries ahead of the conference. Survivors will give testimonies at daily prayer services during the Rome meeting, and vigils and marches organized by advocacy groups are expected to take place outside.
The Pontiff confirmed he would like to do more to solve the problem. Later in December 2018, the Pope vowed the Church would never again cover up sexual abuse and would spare no effort to bring perpetrators of such "abominations" to justice. He warned abusers to "hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice." Critics reacted immediately: The Pope has absolute power in the Vatican and over the Church; therefore if the problem is not solved, it's primarily due to the (insufficient) unwillingness of the Pontiff to solve it.
The Catholic Church became the center of attention last year. But the violence against women was not the first high-profile case in the history of the Church.
For example, last year the Vatican also made unprecedented concessions for the sake of Church promotion. According to the vague wording of the Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago data, since last year "Christ’s brides" don't need literal virginity and a hermitic lifestyle for the sake of serving God. It's reported that this step pushed a growing number of women who want to direct their religious zeal in this way, but whose former sexual contact and marriage don't allow them such an opportunity.
As the Telegraph previously wrote, the official document referred to parishioners who vowed never to marry and avoid carnal relations. During a special Church ritual, they dress in white and wear wedding rings as a sign of "conjugal love for Christ." Unlike nuns, they do not wear special clothes and lead a secular lifestyle.
Around the world, there are about five thousand such brides. Another Vatican innovation shocked and disappointed most of them. So, the American Heart Association dedicated to the virgins has reminded that the basis for the tradition has always been the "self-evident truth that without physical virginity it is not possible to receive the gift of spiritual virginity."