With clarity and rigour

So that the tragedy never happens again

Various European episcopates have taken a stance in recent weeks on the sad affair of the sexual abuse of children perpetrated by members of the Catholic Church. Apart from the statement issued in recent days by the spokesman of the Holy See Father Federico Lombardi, and his statement to Vatican Radio, the Holy See’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, also intervened on the question on 13 March. On Sunday 14 March, during his speech opening the recent Vatican meeting on migrants, Archbishop Paul Cremona of Malta asked for forgiveness from the migrant children who “have suffered abuse while seeking a better future”.Austria: alliance with the State”Full support for the round table on abuses” was reaffirmed by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn on 16 March in a statement issued to the Austrian Catholic press agency Kathpress. “I am very grateful for the initiative of the Minister of Justice Claudia Bandion-Ortner and the Secretary of State for the Family Christine Marek, aimed at setting up this round table, as also for the invitation to the Church to contribute actively [to it]”, said the President of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference and Archbishop of Vienna. “With this initiative it also becomes clear that violence and sexual abuse are unfortunately a very great problem for society as a whole. The Church will participate in a very pro-active way and will collaborate with all the social forces to build an alliance against violence and sexual abuse”. The round table on abuse will meet in Vienna on 13 April with the participation of some 40 experts who will discuss aspects of prevention. “The invitation [to sit at the round table] is broad; it’s not just the Church. Between 80 and 90% of cases of abuse occur in the family”, said Marek. “The Church herself – she concluded – is keen to contribute actively to improve the situation. We are in good relations of communication”. Holland: high moral demandsDuring the eucharistic celebration on Sunday 14 March, a pastoral letter of the bishop, the Most Rev. Jos Punt, was read out in the churches of the diocese of Haarlem and Amsterdam, strongly condemning sex abuse within Catholic institutions. “We cannot excuse the wrongs. Particularly we in the Church have high moral demands over ourselves and others,” writes Mgr. Punt, who also says he feels “strong shock and deep shame” for what has happened and insists on the duty to “recognize the grave structural defects that for too long persisted within the old system of education”. Then the bishop makes a strong exhortation to pray for the victims and to pay attention first of all to them, “in particular for those cases in which the origin of the abuses has been recognized and in which their perpetrators have already died. To the victims must be given, Mgr. Punt insists, “full recognition of the spiritual injuries inflicted on them, which will accompany them for the rest of their life. The whole Church, therefore, in her entirely, must feel guilt for this”. Though he does not consider celibacy a “decisive factor” in the episodes of abuse, the bishop explains that for “admission to the ministry of priesthood more careful checks have been proposed to assess whether the candidates possess the necessary mental and emotional maturity to accept celibacy”. Meanwhile it has been announced that the former Protestant minister Wim Deetman has been chosen as the chairman of the independent commission established by the Dutch bishops to throw light on cases of sexual abuse in Catholic religious institutions in the country. The commission’s work will begin in six-to-eight weeks’ time. Deetman will be responsible for its general approach, methodology of inquiry and the fields in which to investigate. Luxembourg: to prevent the worst”We have always acted in a consistent and preventive fashion” said the vicar general of the Catholic Church of Luxembourg Mathias Schilz, with references to cases of sexual abuse in the Grand Duchy. Interviewed in recent days by the magazine “Luxemburger Wort”, Schilz commented on the cases of abuse committed on children in the Catholic Church in various countries. “We cannot close our eyes to this reality”, said the vicar general. Pointing out that “Luxembourg is not an island”, Schilz recalled that “in over 43 years of administration of the diocese, less than ten cases of “persons suspected” of having committed such abuses have come to light. “I can affirm that in all cases of suspicion, the responsible persons in the diocese have always acted promptly, in a consistent and preventive fashion. Even since the first warning signs of abuse, everything has been done to prevent the worst”.

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