Sex Abuse Symposium a Lead-up to Further Response

Vatican Spokesman Speaks of Initiatives to Come From Conference

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By H. Sergio Mora

ROME, FEB. 6, 2012 ( The symposium on clergy sex abuse, under way through Thursday at the Pontifical Gregorian University, is just a step on the path of the Church’s response, says the director of the Vatican press office.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi spoke with ZENIT on Friday, following the press conference to present the symposium, which began today.

ZENIT: What has changed since the 2011 circular letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith?

Father Lombardi: Many episcopal conferences have established commissions to prepare the guidelines requested by the circular letter. And the symposium [at the Gregorian] is being held in this phase in which the episcopal conferences, having received the circular, are working to put into practice all that was requested, that is to say, the formulation of their directives.

ZENIT: What does it mean to formulate directives?

Father Lombardi: To formulate directives means to prepare a document, but also to put it into practice. All types of exchanging experience will serve this effort, therefore. And then [there will be] the creation of the center that will continue the work of this symposium and that will make it possible to stay in contact and to reflect further, to learn and to have all the documentation on the experiences that have been had in other countries.

ZENIT: Which means?

Father Lombardi: Which means a way of going forward, an active journey of the Church to increasingly progress in the capacity to address and overcome these problems. Whether in listening to the victims, in understanding their suffering, in helping in their healing, or in preventing this type of problem from occurring again.

ZENIT: So a title for the symposium such as «Zero Tolerance» would not have accurately reflected the idea …

Father Lombardi: «Zero Tolerance» seems to me a very limited title because it only implies rigor and severity. There must be severity — one must not be indulgent toward grave offenses and crimes. Here, however, we are speaking of a positive path, in order to remedy in some way the damage done and then avoid other damages arising.

ZENIT: So it means not only rigid norms?

Father Lombardi: It is not only about establishing rigid norms; it is about understanding what the persons involved are going through and how things can be addressed in a living organism, in a living entity such as the Church, inserted in a living organism such as society. In fact, the idea is that the problems that continue to present themselves every day are addressed in the best way.

ZENIT: There will also be a penitential ceremony, right?

Father Lombardi: There will be two ceremonies at this congress: the first — penitential — will take place on Tuesday evening, in which, in fact, there will be the question of forgiveness, the question of reconciliation, presided over by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. The other, instead, will be a Eucharistic celebration, presided over by Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

ZENIT: Is this platform [that will be established] a type of, shall we say, «toll-free helpline»?

Father Lombardi: No, the centers of listening are [to be] established locally. The Church, in her plans and action guidelines in various countries, must have centers of listening and personnel ready to listen to the victims’ situations. 

No, [this center] is at a higher level, a level of e-learning is [being] established, that is, of more specialized courses for further reflection, centers of documentation for the gathering of experiences and documents, including scientific studies, made available to those who work in this field professionally or pastorally.

ZENIT: How was this important initiative born and how was it linked to the Gregorian?

Father Lombardi: The initiative was born of the Gregorian itself as a proposal of service to the Church. The Gregorian is a pontifical university and, hence, lives for the service to the Church. It is a great academic center where the professional competencies to organize a type of initiative such as this one can be found — [an initiative such as this] requires competencies of a theological, moral, juridical, canonical, pastoral and psychological character.

The Gregorian’s Institute of Psychology, which managed the organization of the initiative, will also manage the specialized center that will follow from the symposium. Moreover, the Gregorian has great experience of service to the Church, to bishops and to the clergy, hence it is quite natural that it host an initiative of this nature.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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