We Are Church International Calls for Decisive Action at Vatican Sex Abuse Summit;
Says this is the “Final Opportunity” for Church Leaders to Correct Failings
4 February 2019. In advance of the 21-24 February 2019 meeting Pope Francis has called with leaders of all of the national bishops’ conferences from around the world, We Are Church International stresses the need for the Vatican to take decisive, consistent, and clear action that prioritizes the needs of clerical sexual abuse victims over protection of the institution.
“This summit is the final opportunity that Catholic leaders have to show the Church, the world, and, most importantly, victims of clerical sexual abuse that they take this issue seriously and are ready to undertake real reform,” stated Colm Holmes of Dublin, Ireland, Chair of We Are Church International. “People who suffered abuse at the hands of priests, who saw their abusers protected by church officials, and whose repeated calls for justice have been ignored for too long have been speaking out for more than four decades. It is long past time for their needs to be our Church’s clear priority.”
We Are Church International endorses the seven outcomes for this Summit put forward by Marie Collins, a sexual abuse survivor, longtime advocate, and former member of the Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors. Those outcomes are:
1) Agree on a clear definition of what constitutes sexual abuse of a minor
2) Agree on a clear definition of the term “zero tolerance”
3) Update Canon Law to reflect these terms and definitions
4) Canon Law on the abuse of vulnerable adults needs to be separated from the abuse of minors
5) Universal safeguarding measures and a transparent accountability policy for dealing justly with reports of abuse should be agreed
6) The Pope should make a clear statement outlining what is the process being used to hold bishops accountable
7) The Pope needs at this meeting to name those bishops who have a guilty finding against them, detail the offence, and make public the penalty imposed
“We are a global Church, and we need a single, consistent policy to protect children, and to deal with sexual abuse of minors when it does occur,” said Holmes. “It should not matter whether a victimized child lives in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, Australia, or North America. The crime is the same, and the perpetrator must face the same consequence.”
Holmes continued, “Every church leader who has covered up for a perpetrator’s actions and failed to protect children, their families, and church members, must be stripped of his position. It is time for a clear end to what Pennsylvania’s Attorney General called the Catholic Church’s ‘playbook for concealing the truth’ about the abuse of children and protection of abusive priests.”
Holmes concluded, “Members of We Are Church International stand with Catholics and others around the world who will be watching carefully for what happens at this meeting. We need to be clear that the time for clear and decisive actions and policies is now. The very credibility of our Church is at stake. Only by doing the right thing now will there be any chance for the Vatican and Church leaders to start rebuilding people’s faith in the church.”
We Are Church International (WAC-I) founded in Rome in 1996, is a global coalition of national church reform groups. It is committed to the renewal of the Roman Catholic Church based on the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the theological spirit developed from it.