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A Three-Day Meeting in Rome to Do What?

Pope Francis will meet on February 21, 2019 with the bishops’ conferences of the world on protecting minors from clergy sexual abuse. But what is the problem they will be addressing? Is the problem pedophilia, homosexuality, or rogue clericalism, or all of the above?

Father Hans Zollner, a member of the committee organizing this meeting told the Vatican News on December 27 that the meeting should produce “a clarification of procedures, which aren’t so clear,” regarding the responsibility and accountability of bishops and religious superiors throughout the entire world.

Prof. Ernesto Caffo, a member of the pope’s Commission for the Protection of Minors said “the conference would focus on training bishops to spot abuse, hold one another accountable and to intervene. They will also be taught to listen to victims.” So, the three days will be spent educating and training bishops in psychological, social, and criminal detection skills related to clerical sexual abuse.

It has also been suggested by former members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors that the three days be spent “revaluating the structure of the group in order to make it more effective in pursuing policy reforms.” The three-day meeting should be spent examining “its purpose, its powers, its future,” and why “it has failed to live up to the hope” that was placed in it.

But, these suggestions seem to be aimed at fixing problems and damage control after the abuse is done. They do not get to the cause of the sexual abuse itself.

The problem of clergy sexual abuse is so serious, entrenched and widespread that it must somehow be related to a misunderstanding—or rejection—of something fundamental to the Catholic Faith itself. This is not primarily an administrative or educational problem. It is fundamentally a spiritual and pastoral problem.

Bishop Edward B Scharfenberger of the Albany diocese stated the problem best to his clergy on July 29, 2018. In order to explain today’s crisis in clergy sexual abuse, he said: “I cannot see how we can avoid what is really at the root of this crisis: sin and a retreat from holiness, specifically the holiness of an integral, truly human sexuality.”

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