A scheduled meeting of Catholic bishops planned for late February in Rome may not prove as helpful as many abuse survivors hope. According to recent comments by Pope Francis, the summit of bishops is not meant to address systematic change, but merely to raise more awareness of the problem of child abuse among the clergy. For survivors of sexual abuse dealing with the lifelong effects, the Pope’s comments are disappointing.
Following the huge influx of sexual misconduct claims made against priests within the last year, several Catholic cardinals encouraged Pope Francis to arrange for a summit of bishops and archbishops in Rome. That meeting is set for February 21 to February 24 and will be held at the Vatican. Presidents of Roman Catholic episcopal conferences from over 100 countries are expected to attend. American bishops had previously been advised by the Vatican Congregation for Bishops to refrain from voting on procedures for dealing with sexual abuse cover ups, and to wait for the scheduled meeting.
The Pope expressly told reporters during his return flight from World Youth Day in Panama that expectations for the planned meeting should be lowered. He said the purpose of the summit is to raise awareness of the magnitude of the sexual abuse problem and to inform the bishops of their duties in handling allegations according to set church protocols.
Identifying the main conference goal as a “catechesis”, or teaching, on the problem, Pope Francis acknowledged that many bishops still fail to understand the issue or their role in responding to clergy abuse survivors.
There has been no indication that changes or additions to existing church policies will be discussed by the bishops. Many hoped the meeting would focus on setting procedures for dealing with church superiors, including bishops and archbishops, who failed to protect children from abusive priests. It is expected that testimony of sexual abuse survivors will be given, and a planned “penitential liturgy” to ask forgiveness for the whole church is also planned.
For many Catholics struggling with the clergy abuse crisis for several years, the meeting’s focus on providing information to bishops around the world will likely be disappointing. As survivors continue to live with physical and psychological scars from clergy abuse, the lack of accountability of church superiors remains troublesome.
Survivors of sexual abuse often face significant expenses as they deal with their trauma. Expenses of medical treatment, counseling or therapy, medications, and lost wages can be overwhelming. Filing a civil lawsuit against the perpetuators of clergy sexual abuse, including the molesting priests, their superiors who aided in the cover up of abuse, and the responsible diocese is sometimes the only step survivors can take to obtain compensation for their lifelong physical and psychological injuries.
At Williams Cedar, our experienced clergy abuse lawyers assist clergy abuse survivors searching for justice. Our offices are conveniently located in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, to serve sexual abuse survivors and their families throughout Pennsylvania, including those in Allentown, Scranton, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Greensburg, Johnstown, Eerie, and Wilkes-Barre. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Allenton clergy abuse lawyer today, call us at 215-557-0099 or submit an online inquiry form.