ROME, JUNE 1, 2010 (Zenit.org).- If bishops in Italy have been responsible for covering up abuses committed by clergy in the past, these are mistakes that will be corrected, says the president of the Italian bishops’ conference.
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco affirmed this Friday in a press conference at the closing of the 61st General Assembly of the Italian bishops.
The issue of the abuse of minors by members of the clergy was one of the main problems addressed during the assembly.
If it is proven that there have been “cover-ups of sexual abuse in Italy,” the cardinal stated, the “judgment of the Church is known: It is something mistaken that must be corrected and surmounted.”
Pederasty is “a terrible sin and a crime that affects the whole of society, and the Church is part of society,” he stressed.
The prelate explained that in his Archdiocese of Genoa, every time there is an accusation of sexual abuse, the person who has made the accusation “is received immediately.”
“I am always available, at any time,” he said “and I answer very many letters and requests –on other issues — relating to personal circumstances.”
“Then, of course, it must be verified, but availability is not disputed,” Cardinal Bagnasco said.
The conference’s final communiqué at the conclusion of the assembly stated that priests “are every day at the service of the good of all” and that “the cases of indignity cannot darken the luminous commitment that the Italian clergy as a whole, from time immemorial, carries out in every corner of the country.”
In a May 25 press conference at the beginning of the assembly, the conference secretary, Bishop Mariano Crociata, reported that there have been some 100 canonical prosecutions in the last decade.
He also stressed the determination of Church leaders to cooperate with civil justice.
The prelate explained that the position of the bishops is “first of all understanding and closeness to the victims,” for their “great suffering and bitterness” caused by those in the Church “who are responsible for such grave acts.”
He stressed that “even one case is always too much, as the cardinal president stated.”
When asked about whether a special commission of the bishops’ conference will be formed to deal with these issues, the prelate answered that “there is no need for a special commission, because the indications proposed by the Pope’s letter to Ireland’s Catholics and the guidelines of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith contain all the elements necessary to continue to address and resolve the cases that present themselves.”
Bishop Crociata stated that the Italian bishops “have shown that they do not underestimate the phenomenon, but address it with a great sense of responsibility,” intervening “as rapidly as possible.”
He also highlighted the “maturity of the vast majority of the faithful faced to what has happened.”
“The community of believers is horrified by these things, wants clarity so that the cases are addressed and resolved,” the bishop affirmed.
However, he added, “without underestimating the absolute gravity of the phenomenon, it would be a profound distortion of the way that one should see the life of the Church as a whole, to see it only in this perspective.”
“In fact,” the prelate said, “the Church is wounded in itself by these deeds and is with the victims.”
In regard to the legal proceedings, he explained that Italian law “does not foresee the obligation to denounce, but this doesn’t exclude cooperation, collaboration, which consists in making possible the confirmation of the facts and of encouraging, where possible,” that “one who has suffered deeds of this type” would denounce the perpetrator.
Father Fortunato Di Noto, the president of Meter Association, which fights pederasty on the Internet, said in statements to ZENIT that the conference’s decision to state publicly the number of open prosecutions against priests for sexual abuses, is a “courageous and transparent” decision.
He continued, “I wish to state clearly: Benedict XVI and the Catholic hierarchy have assumed, without feigning or hypocrisy, a hard task, because the Church can never abandon, the need to cleanse the filth that stains and burdens Peter’s boat.”
Father Di Noto stated: “It is the task of all of us and of those who love the Church to contribute to this great movement of struggle against evil.
“A genuine evangelical and cultural revolution has begun, specifically of children, that recalls the Child Jesus himself.”
In particular, Father Di Noto said that the statements of Bishop Crociata and Cardinal Bagnasco must “serve as a warning above all to certain somewhat retrograde Catholic clerics who still dare to say that ‘dirty rags are washed in the family,’ and that facts of this kind shouldn’t be divulged so as not to create alarmism and mistrust in the faithful.”
He asserted, “Pedophilia and sexual abuses are not ‘indiscretions’ but violent and lucid actions against children, children who instead deserve love, protection and guidance.”
The priest concluded, “The Church is for the little ones as Jesus Christ is.”