One year after the Pontifical Gregorian University (PUG) hosted its international symposium on the sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy, “Towards Healing and Renewal,” leaders gathered together again for one evening to revisit where the Church stands today in confronting this crisis.
The meeting was held yesterday evening at the Gregorian University, and featured a presentation of the online-based resource, Centre for Child Protection (CCP), launched at last year’s symposium. Yesterday’s event also marked the release of a compilation of the talks delivered during the symposium, which to date has been made available in 12 languages.
Those participating in yesterday’s gathering heard from the university rector Fr. Francois-Xavier Dumortier; PUG department head for the Institute of Psychology, Fr. Hans Zollner; director for the Center for the Protection of Minors (CCP), Fr. Hubert Liebhardt; and Fr. Robert Oliver, promoter of Justice for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
Speaking to the press in Italian, Fr. Zollner recalled how last year’s symposium played an important role in the universal Church’s road to confronting the sex abuse crisis. He noted the challenge of obtaining a comprehensive understanding of the crisis, on account of every country, every diocese, and every culture being unique.
“I think I can say that the symposium was demonstrated the decision to make an irreversible step in bringing about a greater understanding on the part of the universal Church. Now no one can ever say again that they did not know,” he said.
During the same press conference, Fr. Liebhardt presented the E-learning program of the CCP, a resource which seeks to address the sex abuse crisis from six different points: “theological aspects”; “risks”; “identification and reaction”; “intervention and rehabilitation,” and “specific contexts” (such as sexual assaults among peers and abuse of disabled children and adolescents).
“The goal of the project is prevention in the first sense,” he explained. “Prevention, for us, means awareness and capacity-building. We believe that pastoral caregivers, our first contact person for victims, means that Church, parishes, institutions of the Church are locations where children or adolescents can go to find help.”
Answering questions from the press, Fr. Oliver spoke in English about the role of the media in helping to bring the sex abuse crisis to the forefront.
“Every single person has difficulty coming to understand what this really is, and how prevalent it is in our societies across the world,” he said. “Every single one of us begins with denial.”
“One of the great things about the work that is being done here; that we all come to know that, in order to prevent this from happening, we all need to come to a better understanding.”
Fr. Oliver concluded, referring to the work of the media in bringing the crisis to light: “Certainly, those who continued to put before us that we need to confront this problem did us a service. They helped to keep the energy, to keep the movement going, so that we would honestly and with transparency, and with our strength confront what is true.”