Msgr. Scicluna: Bishops Have Duty to Address Abuse Crisis

Vatican’s Promoter of Justice Speaks of Church’s Two-Fold Response

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ROME, JUNE 20, 2011 ( The Church’s work with regard to sexual abuse of minors by the clergy is to aid victims, but also to prevent abuse by promoting a health attitude toward sexuality in the seminaries, says the promoter of justice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Monsignor Charles Scicluna said this Saturday at a press conference to present the international symposium «Toward Healing and Renewal,» convoked by the Pontifical Gregorian University for February 2012.

In this transcription of some of the questions and answers of the press conference, the Maltese priest speaks of the primary role of the bishops in addressing the abuse crisis, and what the laity can do to help the Church stop sexual abuse by clergy.

Q: What are the implications of the binomial: help the victims-educate the communities?

Monsignor Scicluna: One must begin with the formation of clerics in the seminary. The most recent North American study on the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, the John Jay report on the causes and context of this phenomenon, confirms that when awareness is born in the seminaries of the importance of human formation, including in it also a healthy attitude to sexuality, there is a decrease of sexual abuse by clerics formed in that generation. This means that a healthy formation of seminarians, a healthy attitude toward eroticism and sexuality, helps the person to live the just demands of celibacy in a more conscious — not repressive — way, so that there won’t be traumatic and destructive outlets.

Q: How do the communities come into play?

Monsignor Scicluna: There is a sphere of sexual abuses that we will never be able to uproot, as it is generated by the psychological constitution of each individual. Posed here is not just a problem of formation, but the need for long-term therapy to address a disturbance that is very difficult to diagnose and to discover. Hence, the community must always be able to protect itself, to recognize adequately the signs of abuse of power, which can also be eroticized in the environment of abuse of intimacy with boys, or become a genuine sexual abuse of minors.

Therefore, the formation of the clergy must be accompanied by the formation of the community. The latter is important also to guarantee the healing of victims, who, because of the weight they carry within, feel «outside» the community itself. The need arises of an attitude of mercy by the ecclesial community, which receives the wounded individual as an integral part of itself, as this is the Gospel. The Gospel brings healing, it doesn’t just try to avoid sin, but when there is a trauma it propitiates an environment where the wounded person can recollect himself and find in his life again the signs of charity, of hope and of faith, which he might have lost due to the abuse suffered.

Q: It is the bishop’s responsibility to address the problems, but on many occasions they have not been up to this task.

Monsignor Scicluna: As is said in English, there are bishops of all «sizes,» of all types, but there is an attitude of the bishop that does not stem from a personal option, but from his vocation to be a «good shepherd.» When a good shepherd sees an enemy he does not flee, but rather he waits for the enemy at the door in order to defend his flock, as Jesus said. At the beginning of his pontificate, Benedict XVI also said: «Pray for me that I won’t flee before the enemy, but that I will have the courage to be a good shepherd.» Jesus’ words, actualized also by the Pope, can be the ideal of every bishop today.

Q: And when the bishops are not good shepherds, what can be done?

Monsignor Scicluna: On giving bishops parameters for action, the Circular Letter sent by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith represents a very strong sign on the part of the Holy See. When we receive bishops on their «ad limina» visits we realize that there is a widespread awareness of the problem and also of the Pope’s position in this regard. Moreover, each faithful has the right to express his concern about the diocese directly to the Holy See, through the nuncio. My work has made me appreciate very much the activity of the nuncios, who represent to the local community, not only to the governments, the closeness of the Holy Father.

People must know that they can turn to the nuncio when there are issues that have repercussions in the pastoral ministry of bishops, but not to denounce them, but to say: «We have confidence in the ministry of Peter, which the nuncio represents; we have a concern, and we have the duty, not just the right, to present it to Peter.» This possibility also forms part of the education of the ecclesial community.

Q: In an interview you said that the cases of abuse that are presented to the congregation are diminishing. What impact has the media had on this?

Monsignor Scicluna: The media has opened everyone’s eyes on the phenomenon, and has obliged us to address the truth of the events. Jesus has told us that the truth will make us fee. There can be no healing, it is not possible to free oneself of this weight if we are not sufficiently humble and courageous to address the truth about the events, the truth of the wound, the need to fulfill our duty better. From this point of view, I see how Benedict XVI, with great humility, has been able to give a great example not only to the Church but also to the world.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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