Failures offer opportunity to improve protection efforts, expert says

National Catholic Reporter

January 30, 2018

by Carol Glatz

ROME — Failure and disappointment in the Catholic Church’s response to abuse should be an impetus to reassess, refocus and rededicate oneself to improving and expanding efforts in healing and prevention, said a researcher at Rome’s Center for Child Protection.

For example, “Pope Francis’ infelicitous words — experienced as a ‘slap’ by those who have suffered abuse — during his recent visit to Chile” raises the question, “is there hope for real change in the church?” wrote Sara Boehk, a member of the center’s research team. Her article appeared on the center’s blog — — Jan. 26.

The center, which is part of the Pontifical Gregorian University, provides training, formation and educational resources in the field of safeguarding minors. Its president is Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner, who had been a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Boehk’s commentary — titled “Is there hope for real change in the church?” — was published after Pope Francis’ visit to Chile, where he told reporters that he would not take action against a Chilean bishop unless accusations that he covered up abuse could be supported with proof; otherwise, he said, any claims Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno knew or witnessed abuses committed by his former mentor amounted to “calumny.” The pope later apologized, saying he only realized later that his words erroneously implied that victims’ accusations are credible only with concrete evidence.

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