Top Anti-abuse Expert Says ‘paternalistic’ Attitude Is Worse Than Clericalism

By Elise Ann Allen
March 13, 2020

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, a leading Vatican official dealing with clergy sexual abuse in the church, speaks about the crisis to an audience Jan. 29, 2020, at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. (Credit: Sarah Webb, via CNS)

ROME - German Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, one of the Catholic Church’s leading experts in child protection, has said that more dangerous than clericalism in the clerical abuse crisis is a “paternalistic” attitude within the Church that both devalues laypeople and puts clergy on a pedestal.

While clericalism has become a hot-button issue under Pope Francis and while it certainly contributes to the problem of abuse, “What I think is a deeper problem is the paternalistic attitude that exists,” said German Jesuit Father Hans Zollner in an interview with Crux.

The problem with this attitude, he said, “has two sides: Both with those in the hierarchy not involving the gifts of a wide variety of faithful, and on the other hand, we have laypeople who enable a paternalistic attitude by believing bishops to be omniscient and having the power to affect immediate change.”

This is not referring to accountability for crimes, he stressed, adding that, “What I want to affirm is that every baptized person is co-responsible for the holiness of the Church and needs to be prayerful about that and take action so that the community of the Church is ever more a witness to the Gospel.”

Head of the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Centre for Child Protection and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Zollner is among those supervising new task forces helping bishops’ conferences develop and adopt guidelines for abuse prevention.








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