Pope’s Healing Call for Abuse Victims

Scottish Catholic Observer
February 10, 2012

Holy Father calls for a major renewal within the Church during historic Vatican summit

The Holy Father called for healing for abuse victims and a major renewal within the Church as a historic summit on protecting children and vulnerable adults began at the Vatican.

“Healing for victims must be of paramount concern in the Christian community, and it must go hand in hand with a profound renewal of the Church at every level,” Pope Benedict XVI said in a statement released to mark the start of the summit on Monday.

Bishops from more than 100 countries and the 32 heads of religious orders gathered at the Vatican this week for the Towards Healing and Renewal symposium at the Pontifical Gregorian University. They heard testimony from an abuse victim as the Church attempts to produce guidelines on tackling abusive priests and help police to prosecute the crime.

In the message to those gathered at the conference, the Pope called for ‘a vigorous culture of effective safeguarding and victim support’ and said every effort should be made to help children’s human and spiritual growth.

The message said the Holy Father was praying for ‘this important initiative,’ and that he ‘asks the Lord that, through the deliberations, many bishops and religious superiors throughout the world may be helped to respond in a truly Christ-like manner to the tragedy of child abuse.’

Cardinal Levada

In the opening address to the conference, Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that more than 4000 cases involving the sexual abuse of minors have been referred to the Congregation in the past decade.

During his address, Cardinal Levada reviewed the 2001 document Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, which granted the congregation the authority to address the sexual abuse of minors, and subsequent juridical documents on the punishment of clerics guilty of child sexual abuse.

“For many if not most victims a first need is to be heard, to know that the Church listens to their stories of abuse, that the Church understands the gravity of what they have suffered, that She wants to accompany them on the often long path of healing, and that She has taken or is willing to take effective steps to ensure that other children will be protected from such abuse,” he said.


Irish woman Marie Collins (above), a victim of clerical abuse, addressed the symposium on Tuesday.

“Apologising for the actions of the abusive priests is not enough,” she told those assembled. “There must be acknowledgement and accountability for the harm and destruction that has been done to the life of victims and their families by the often deliberate cover up and mishandling of cases by their superiors.”

Ms Collins also recounted her details of her abuse by a Dublin priest when she was 13. The priest was not brought to justice for 35 years.

“Those fingers that would abuse my body the night before were the next morning holding and offering me the sacred host,” she said. “I feel the best of my life began 15 years ago when my abuser was brought to justice. During those years I have worked with my diocese and the wider Catholic Church in Ireland to improve their child protection policies. My life is no longer a wasteland. I feel it has meaning.”


Cardinal Levada said that his remarks at the gathering were intended to ‘call attention to concrete steps being taken’ by the Church ‘to address the varied facets of the challenge presented by sexual abuse of minors by clerics.’

“It bears repeating that the abusers are a tiny minority of an otherwise faithful, committed clergy,” he said. “Nevertheless, this tiny minority has done great harm to victims, and to the Church’s mission of bringing Christ’s love to the world of today.

He concluded by saying he was ‘convinced’ that the steps taken by the Church to respond to this challenge would ‘help us to continue to respond in many fruitful ways to heal the wounds of the past, and to renew our commitment to a future full of hope, as our gracious God has promised.’

Mgr Charles Scicluna, the senior Vatican official in charge of investigating the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, said before the conference opened that bishops had already been sent a ‘very clear message’ that they must follow civil law in cases of abuse and in cases of paedophilia.

“When crime has happened and the civil authorities justifiably ask for co-operation and request co-operation, the Church cannot decline that co-operation,” he said. “Concerning reporting mechanisms, our strong advice is to follow the law of the country concerned.”

Each bishops’ conference throughout the world must send guidelines on abuse to the Vatican for approval by May.








Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.