Vatican admits “dysfunctions” in handling sex abuse cases

La Croix International [France]

December 15, 2022

By Loup Besmond de Senneville

The leaders of the French Bishops’ Conference and three lay experts on abuse issues hold three days of meetings with officials of the Roman Curia

Top officials at the Vatican have admitted that there have been, at times, “dysfunctions” in the way the Holy See has handled the clergy sex abuse cases that local dioceses are obliged to report to Rome.

The admissions were made this week to the top leaders of the French Bishops’ Conference (CEF), who were in Rome for three days of meetings surrounding recent revelations of abuse by a number of their retired confreres and how their cases were managed.

The December 12-14 meetings came a month after the CEF’s most recent plenary assembly, which was consumed with the abuse cases of Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard (78) and Bishop Michel Santier (75), and how, in general, the Roman Curia deals with sexual violence in the Church.

Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, the CEF president, and his two deputies – Archbishop Vincent Jordy and Bishop Dominique Blanchet – raised the issue on Wednesday morning in meetings with Cardinals Marc Ouellet PSS, prefect of the Dicatery for Bishops, and Luis Ladaria SJ, Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF).

“I am with you, we are with you”

The three French bishops also spent “just under an hour” with Pope Francis on Monday and he assured them of his “support”.

“He told us, ‘I am with you, we are with you’,” Archbishop Jordy told journalists on Wednesday. He said the pope “listened” to the bishops, but did not address the details of the cases, especially the fate of Cardinal Ricard. The former archbishop of Bordeaux is still a member of the DDF and the College of Cardinals. Since he is under 80 he can participate in a conclave to elect the next pope.

Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort, on the other hand, affirmed that Pope Francis had already been aware of the cardinal’s abuse case when Ricard came to Rome at the end of August for a consistory and a two-day meeting of the entire College of Cardinals.

“In trying to provide remedies, we have been able to analyze each of the dysfunctions,” said Bishop Blanchet, who succeeded Bishop Santier last year as head of the diocese of Créteil. Blanchet also affirmed that officials in Rome had “recognized” the “dysfunctions at all levels”. “This gave rise to very free and fairly in-depth discussions,” said Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort. “We found interlocutors who were completely open on this subject,” he added.

In Rome to “develop bonds of trust”

The French bishops came to Rome with three lay experts on issues related to abuse. Among them was Hervé Balladur, coordinator of the working groups that were set up after the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIAS) issued its devastating report. Another was Alain Christnacht, a former senior civil servant who has headed the bishop’s advisory group on dealing with cases of pedocriminality since 2016. And the third lay person was Ségolaine Moog, the director of the bishops’ National Service for the Protection of Minors.

According to several sources, the French bishops were also in Rome to “develop bonds of trust, to be maintained or strengthened” with the Roman disciplinary authorities. For the CEF,