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U.S. Cardinal Urges Italian Bishops to Monitor, Share Information on Abuse

VATICAN CITY – As Italian bishops debated how to respond to calls for a nationwide inquiry into clerical sexual abuse and how the charges were handled, U.S. Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the protection of minors, encouraged them to Avance.

“You have a unique opportunity to develop an honest and non-defensive dialogue with all those involved, nationally and locally, who are ready to embark on a constructive process of review, reform and reconciliation,” the Cardinal said in a video message. played on May 25 during the spring meeting of the Italian episcopal conference.

The video and a text of the cardinal’s remarks were released by the commission.

“As you chart the way forward, the history of abuse in our church will increasingly come to light,” the cardinal told the bishops. “It’s been a normal process in every country where we’ve seen this happen.”

But the cardinal also insisted that looking back and reporting on what happened “is not the same as passing judgment on what happened in the past, especially who made mistakes or who was also caught in an imperfect situation”.

“Sexual abuse has always been wrong, that’s for sure,” he said. “But the way pastors have dealt with these accusations, while inadequate in some cases, should not be seen through the prism of what we know today.”

Before the bishops’ meeting began on May 23, groups that monitor abuse cases and advocate for survivors called for an independent investigation into Italy’s abuse scandal and insisted it dates back decades. Some bishops, however, wanted any study conducted to be carried out by the conference’s child welfare office, in conjunction with its diocesan counterparts, and many believed that the study should be limited to recently reported and treated cases.

“One of the strongest desires of the human heart is to feel safe. Our people want to feel safe in our church, and that means they want to be strengthened in their faith by their pastors,” the minister said. Cardinal O’Malley.

The “work of listening, healing and justice” is part of the “basic ministry of a priest and a pastor”, he said. Priests and bishops are called “to welcome people and to be instruments of God’s grace for those who have been wounded by life, even when that wound comes from within our own ranks.”

Any child protection plan, he said, must include: effective victim care; clear guidance and training for church staff; accurate screening; “the removal of the perpetrators of abuse”; cooperation with the police; “a careful assessment of the risks existing for priests guilty of abuse – for themselves and for the community – once they have been reduced to the lay state”; and “public verification of the protocols in place so people know the policies are working.”

“An audit and report on the implementation of policies is very useful,” the Cardinal told the Bishops.

Drawing on his decades of experience listening to survivors of abuse and working on child protection measures, Cardinal O’Malley said that “sometimes, and perhaps rightly so, it seems that there are no adequate steps we can take to make things right for those who have been abused.” .”

“That may be the hardest part of being a pastor: knowing that our listening and our healing and justice efforts will likely fall short of what survivors are looking for,” he said. “It’s a sobering reminder that ultimately only God’s grace can mend what sin has broken.”

Yet the cardinal insisted, “We have nothing to fear from telling the truth. The truth will set us free. Acknowledging people’s stories of abuse, listening to survivors and committing to working together isn’t easy, but I can tell you after 40 years that it’s the only way.”

In conclusion, Cardinal O’Malley told the bishops that they could not ignore the fact that “it is quite probable that some of your priests were abused by members of the clergy in their childhood or perhaps in their years of seminar. Remember there are services available and you are not alone.

“The reality of abuse is still close to all of us, sadly, whether it’s in our families, our communities or, yes, even our church,” he said.