Rome summit to examine clerical sex abuse

The Tablet

January 21, 2020

By Christopher Lamb

Fr Hans Zollner, the Church’s leading child protection expert, wants more systematic theology done on abuse crisis

Rome is to host a summit examining how the clerical sexual abuse crisis is forcing the Church to go back to its core mission and re-think its model of the priesthood.

The gathering of around 90 theologians from across the world, hosted by the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University, will look at the ecclesiological impact of abuse, in a way that is not simply legal, or procedural. The 11-14 March meeting is to look clericalism, ecclesial reform and rediscovering the mission of Jesus in Church structures.

At a theological level, the abuse of children by priests, and the failure by bishops to respond adequately, is doubly shocking because it betrays the Church’s mission. Historians talk about it being the greatest crisis since the Reformation and for organisers of the forthcoming summit, the response to abuse requires deep soul searching about what it means to be the Church.

But Fr Hans Zollner, the centre’s director and the Church’s leading child protection expert, said that while the abuse crisis has been under discussion in the Church for 35 years there has been “very little attempt to do systematic theology” on it.

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