Religion News Service
January 30, 2019
By Fr. Thomas Reese
Talking to reporters on his plane coming back from World Youth Day in Panama this week (Jan. 27), Pope Francis downplayed what he called “inflated” expectations for the upcoming meeting of bishops in Rome to deal with clergy sexual abuse. “The expectations need to be deflated,” he said. He also sought to lower expectations about the possibility of married priests.
Many in the United States have been hoping that the meeting on abuse, which will bring the presidents of the episcopal conferences from over 100 countries to the Vatican Feb. 21-24, would result in procedures for dealing with bishops who do not protect children from abusive priests. While the church has made progress in dealing with abusive priests, it still needs a process for dealing with bishops who do not protect children.
The expectations for the meeting were raised in November, when the head of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, told the American bishops not to vote on such procedures at their fall meeting in Baltimore. Ouellet said the Americans should wait for a discussion of the issue at the meeting in Rome.
It now appears that the meeting will not develop new policies but, in the words of Pope Francis, will be a “catechesis” on the problem of abuse aimed at bishops who do not understand the issue or what they should do in response to abuse.
It also appears that the meeting will establish a task force to help bishops in implementing the church’s policies and procedures for dealing with abuse.
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