February 28, 2019
By John Daniel Davidson
The Vatican’s four-day summit on protecting minors ended Sunday with a whimper. There were no new “concrete, effective measures” to hold Catholic bishops accountable for ignoring and covering up sexual abuse, as Pope Francis had called for before the summit began. There were likewise no discussions of the link between sexual abuse and homosexuality among the clergy, the rampant abuse of adult seminarians by their superiors, or the case of disgraced former Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.
Instead, the summit concluded with a 3,000-word speech by Francis that contained little of substance but was heavy on defensiveness and bureaucratese. Francis rattled off a list of “best practices” for ending violence against children compiled by the World Health Organization, and offered a meandering discussion about how a “great number of” abuse cases are “committed within families”—an obvious attempt to deflect attention from the putative subject of the summit: clerical sexual abuse.
In the end, the summit accomplished almost nothing because it was designed to accomplish nothing. It was narrowly tailored to address only the sexual abuse of children, and only in a generalized way, without reference to the McCarrick affair or the problems it exposed in the American hierarchy.
Never mind that the revelations about McCarrick’s sexual abuse of minors and seminarians precipitated this meeting, after Francis was accused of ignoring reports about McCarrick back in September. Never mind that more than 80 percent of abuse victims have been teenage males, or that the first reported victim of McCarrick was 17 at the time he was abused.
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