Vatican’s summit on abuse gets a mixed verdict

National Catholic Reporter

February 28, 2019

The recently completed meeting at the Vatican of heads of bishops’ conferences from around the globe was the latest and most elaborate of the hierarchy’s transactions with members of their own church and with the wider culture over clergy sex abuse.

For a church that proclaims Jesus, this has been a long, slow slog toward truth-telling and accountability. The transactions — from denial to reluctant reform — have been going on since the scandal was first reported nearly 34 years ago.

The recent meeting has the potential to mark a large step forward in the church’s efforts to deal with the scandal and regain the trust of Catholics and others. It is essential, however, to note two factors that significantly qualify the meeting’s success.

First, the gathering itself, extraordinary as it may have been, was, like most other advances in dealing with the crisis, forced by outside circumstances. The bishops were not called to Rome because it was the right thing to do. They were summoned, in part, because of extreme pressure that had built up behind ongoing revelations in a grand jury report of hierarchical malfeasance and because of the abuse of a child and seminarians by a well-known cardinal.

Second, the bishops returned home having yet to answer that ancient question, a line from the poet Juvenal, “Who will guard the guards?”

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