This morning at the Vatican, Pope Francis opened The Meeting for The Protection of Minors in the Church. This three-day meeting will include Pope Francis and the presidents of the world’s bishops conferences, as well as others in the highest positions of responsibility in the Church. Through this meeting, all of us are called to be in solidarity above all with the victims, with their families, and with the ecclesial communities so wounded by the scandals.
Lend an ear and listen to the Holy Spirit
"In the face of this scourge of sexual abuse perpetrated by men of the church to the detriment of minors, I thought I would summon you," the Pope told the nearly 200 Catholic leaders gathered in Vatican City, "so that all together we may lend an ear and listen to the Holy Spirit ... and to the cry of the small who are asking for justice."
"The holy people of God are looking at us and expect from us not simple condemnation," Francis continued, "but concrete and effective measure to put in place. We need to be concrete."
The meeting will confront the complexity of the worldwide problem of sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy in all its aspects, by reflecting on presentations that address the themes: responsibility, accountability, and transparency on all levels in the Church.
Click here for a list of presentations on the website created for the Meeting. The presentations are posted here directly after they are presented at the Meeting.
What can we expect from this meeting?
As I watched the news conference held in preparation for the meeting, I was amazed at the amount of information provided to the press and available to all of us on the website created for the meeting…and beyond. The key words here are “and beyond.”
I’m sure you’ve heard, as have I, that Pope Francis has been scaling back expectations for what this meeting will accomplish. In fact, at the press conference this was one of the questions directly addressed to Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta and President of the canonical team (The College for Recourses) dealing with appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse. The Archbishop responded that the expectation that all sexual abuse of children in the Church and in the world will end after three days of meetings is unrealistic. It is realistic, however, to expect that after these days of meetings there will be a plan moving forward that can be audited in every country as the entire community takes on the commitment to protect minors, holding everyone responsible and accountable, starting with those in the highest positions of responsibility. The meeting is one phase of a longer and more comprehensive process.
You have access to all the information that will emerge from the meeting.
Through the website, everyone will be able to “transparently and authentically follow the process of change and development, both during the meeting and thereafter." Federico Lombardi, S.J., Moderator of the Meeting, explained that even beyond February 2019, everyone will be able to use the website in order to audit the implementation of the concrete proposals for the protection of minors in the Church throughout the world.
We are all called to solidarity.
As the Church moves forward with this meeting, she is walking the talk of transparency, calling all of us to work together in solidarity to make every Church experience safe for children. Fr. Lombardi states that “the entire Church must choose to live in solidarity, above all with the victims, with their families and with the ecclesial communities wounded by the scandals. As the pope has written, 'If one member suffers, all the members suffer together' (1 Cor 12:26).”
I feel the Church is inviting us also to be at this meeting in spirit.
You and I are invited to walk with the participants at the meeting the first steps on a long path of healing and transformation of the Church, and a deeper and more wholehearted following of Jesus.
The presentations are provided for download as they are being given. So I have decided that my first steps in responsibility will be to read the talks, at least a few paragraphs of each. The only way I will really know what is being talked about, the framework, the hopes and dreams, the ideals, the desires, the commitments, is if I listen directly to what is being said at that meeting as it is presented.
We have been chosen by God to live at this time in the Church’s history.
“We, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another" (Romans 12:5). We must live as the Body of Christ in today's world, with today's struggles. We have all been affected by this crisis. We have a responsibility now to stand in solidarity with those who have been most directly hurt and are seeking healing. We also have a responsibility for making Church spaces safer for children in the future.
Last night after supper I was speaking about this meeting with Sr Lily, one of the sisters I live with in community. I thought her comments were helpful to share:
“With this meeting we are seeing the compassion of God for the voiceless, the children who need to be safe in our churches, schools, and communities. With this move to greater transparency and responsibility on all levels—bishops, priests, and all the faithful—we can offer the rest of the world a way forward for dealing with this issue in society.”
In times like these, more than ever before, Jesus is inviting us to keep our eyes on him,
- on Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life,
- on Jesus who is the Good Shepherd who guides, feeds, and protects his sheep,
- on Jesus who says: "Come to Me, all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest" (see Matthew 11:28-30).
So as we pray, as we inform ourselves, let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who is leading the Church, on the Lord who is creating something new.
To make it easier to follow the presentations, we will be sending a very short evening email during the Meeting with direct links to the presentations of the day.
The Statement of the International Union of Superiors General prior to the Meeting on the Protection of Minors in Rome invokes the power of the Holy Spirit on the Meeting with great hope. May this hope also fill our hearts!
"Our hope for this meeting is that the Holy Spirit will work powerfully during these three days. A three-day meeting is a short time. However, we believe that with the winds of change blowing through our Church and with goodwill on all sides, important processes and structures of accountability can be started and the ones already in place can be supported. New steps forward can be imagined and decisions can be made so that implementation can follow speedily and universally with proper respect for different cultures. The abuse of children is wrong anywhere and anytime: this point is not negotiable."
Let us join with the rest of the Church in prayer to the Holy Spirit:
Veni Sancte Spiritus
Come, Holy Spirit, come
from your celestial home.
Send forth the radiance of your light.
Come, Father of the poor!
Come with gifts that endure.
Come, light of every heart.
Greatest comforter of all.
Sweetest guest of the soul.
Sweet refreshment here below.
In labor, you are comfort sweet,
pleasant coolness in the heat,
solace from our tears.
O blessed Light divine,
Visit these hearts of thine;
Fill our inmost being.
Without you, Spirit, and your grace
nothing pure in us will stay.
Any good is turned to ill.
What is soiled, make it pure.
What is wounded, work a cure.
Wash away our guilt.
Gently bend the rigid heart.
To what is frozen, your warmth impart.
Redirect our errant ways.
Fill the faithful, who confide
in your power to guard and guide,
with your sevenfold gifts.
To us, grace and mercy send.
Grant salvation at life’s end.
Eternal joy, forever.