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FEATURE: Archbishop Scicluna and Cardinal Gracias Reflect to ZENIT on Steps to Take Following Summit for Protection of Minors

Clarifications to ‘Come Una Madre Amorevole’ and Office to Handle Abuse Being Examined

We need to develop certain aspects of the Pope’s 2016 Motu Proprio Come una Madre Amorevole …. 

An office to manage protection of minors, not the same as the current Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, is being considered…

Both these points were confirmed to ZENIT by Archbishop Charles Scicluna, president of the Maltese Bishops’ Conference, the Pope’s entrusted reformer in combatting and investigating sex abuse, and one of the four organizers of the recent Summit on the Protection of Minor’s in the Church in the Vatican, Feb. 21-24, and Archbishop of Mumbai, India, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who is also one of the four prelates who have organized the encounter, a papal advisor and President of the Bishops’ Conference of India.

The comments were made at the Augustinianum, Feb. 24, during the final press conference of the meeting to combat sex abuse, convened by the Pope, which brought together the presidents of the world’s bishops conferences and other representatives in the Church and in religious life.

The speakers, along with Cardinal Gracias and Archbishop Scicluna, who also is an adjunct secretary in the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, included Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., president of the Joseph Ratzinger – Benedetto XVI Vatican Foundation, moderator of the meeting; Fr. Hans Zollner, S.J., president of the Centre for the Protection of Minors of the Pontifical Gregorian University, member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, part of the Organizing Committee; Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki who had given an intervention at the summit; Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications; and Alessandro Gisotti, Director ‘ad interim’ of the Holy See Press Office.

Each day began with prayer, then two interventions in the morning, another in the afternoon, each followed with a question and answer session, and then working groups based on language. Some highlights of these days were the Penitential Liturgy on Saturday afternoon and the Mass on Sunday morning. The Pope, following Sunday’s Mass and before the Angelus at noon, gave a concluding speech, where he called for an “all out battle” against abuse, stressing it must be eradicated. He said that where even one case of abuse should emerge, “it would be treated with the utmost seriousness.” He also decried cover up. Three immediate actions, among others still being considered, include a new motu proprio on abuse for the Vatican City State, a rule book provided by the CDF to provide bishops with an easy Q & A on how to handle various situations, and task forces for places without resources or adequate understanding.

Some victims, male and female, were present during moments of evening prayer and they gave testimonies. The organizers met some victims ahead of the conference.

The speakers have reminded during and before the Summit that there are already strong guidelines and protocols in place, for zero tolerance of sexual abuse toward minors and toward negligence of Bishops in Pope Francis’ 2016 Motu Proprio ‘Like a Loving Mother.’

The issue is that these need to be completely observed, embraced and followed, and never ignored or neglected. While some parts of the world, especially in Anglophone countries, and some parts of Europe have taken them to heart, other parts of the world have not.

During the Feb. 22 press conference, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, commented that a clarification to the application of the Pope’s motu proprio ‘Like a Loving Mother’ is being prepared.

ZENIT asked about the nature of the clarification at the Feb. 24 closing press conference.

“One of the things that needs to be better clarified about Come una Madre Amorevole,” Archbishop Scicluna told ZENIT, “is [that there needs to be] more information on what happens when a superior general or one of the hierarchs of the religious congregations [abuses], because that is not well developed in the motu proprio, as is.”

So a future by-law ‘regolamento‘ as they call it, will certainly specify this aspect.

“Otherwise the procedure is what it is,” he said, noting: “It will need to be applied to different types of workings in the congregations in a way it does not yet do so.” He noted that certain congregations do have regular congressi, that is the meetings of the executive staff. Others have it every month.

“It depends,” he said.

“There is no need for a great paradigm shift, there is no need for that,” he pointed out, yet this aspect of further developing aspect about the leadership of the religious congregations, he noted, is “one of the important aspects that needs to be reviewed in Come una Madre Amorevole.”

ZENIT acknowledged that there had been allusions this week to the idea of creating a Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors (something beyond the current Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors), and how others, such as Australian Archbishop Coleridge in a recent interview with another Catholic outlet called for a high-level office in the Vatican to tackle abuse and roots of clerical culture.

Cardinal Gracias responded to ZENIT, confirming that the idea of an office of this type has come up in discussions.

“Thank you for the question,” he said, noting they have discussed the possibility.

“We have the Commission currently, but we would like to deepen what we have.” For the appropriate and structure that would be considered, he suggested, it would be of utmost importance that “it keeps its freedom, that it remains autonomous, even if within the Curia.”

“It should never be straitjacketed. It must keep its freedom even in the Curia, and this is one question we are looking into resolving,” Cardinal Gracias said, noting it must have adequate independent power to be helpful to dioceses and the Holy Father.

About Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is a Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in four languages). She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, at times from the papal flight, and has done television and radio commentary, including for Vatican Radio and BBC. She is a contributor to National Catholic Register, UK Catholic Herald, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside the Vatican, and other Catholic news outlets. She has also collaborated with the Vatican in various projects, including an internship at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and is a collaborator with NBC Universal, NBC News, Euronews, and EWTN. For 'The Other Francis': http://www.gracewing.co.uk/page219.html or https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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