I was very much encouraged by the fact that a symposium for bishops and superiors of religious communities was held last month in the Vatican. The subject was sex abuse entitled, “Towards Healing and Renewal.” I am aware of the fact that there have been many such meetings, locally and regionally, but this is the first time that the Vatican took responsibility for a first-class, worldwide review based on hard data, serious research and accurate scientific knowledge. The tragedy is that it has taken more than 20 years to get around to it. Twenty years! Can you imagine that?
The abuse scandal has been an unbelievable disaster for the Church at the end of the 20th century. The sexual abuse aspect of it is disgusting, destructive and humiliating. An even bigger problem was the almost universal failure of Church leaders to properly respond and to respond in a timely manner. Twenty years is a long time to wait to mount a realistic and effective response.
This agonizing debacle is, of course, the direct response of sinful and usually sick failed priests who brought disaster on parishes and schools all over the world. However, the biggest source of making the problem infinitely worse than it had to be was the failure of leadership, a failure of the bishops, a failure of the Vatican.
Let’s prayerfully hope that this Vatican Symposium is a reflection that the people at the top have finally gotten the message. We will be observing a follow-up over the next few weeks and months. Together let’s pray for real and measurable success.