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FEATURE: ‘Your Advice for Young People to Stay or Be Faithful Catholics in Spite of Scandals?’ Archbishop Scicluna to ZENIT: ‘It Has to Be About Jesus’

Says We Ought to Give Pope Francis Time, Trust He Will Make System Where Bishops Will Be More Accountable

How should young people stay or be interested in the Church with all the scandals and negative press?  Archbishop Charles Scicluna, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Malta, says it must be about Jesus, not the Church.
The Pope’s trusted investigator of clergy sex abuse and cover up told ZENIT this, responding to its question on how young people are still to feel encouraged to be part of the Church, despite feeling discouraged or dissuaded by the abuse scandals and cover ups.
Archbishop Scicluna, a former official of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and also president of a review board handling abuse cases within the CDF, acknowledged that many young people do not have much of a relationship per se with the Church.

“It is not about the Church, it is not about the Bishops,’ he said, adding: “It has to be about Jesus. If you find Jesus, then you want to be with his family. You know the family is not made of saints. There are lots of sinners there. Join the club. But there are sinners who have been touched by God’s mercy. And that is what I would say to young people.”

“You have a thirst. Your thirst is a love for God and a love for Jesus. So, before worrying about what the Church is about, concentrate on the tender loving face of Jesus, the face of the Lord’s mercy, and then you can be part of this family, that is full of sinners!”

The Pope sent Archbishop Scicluna to Chile to try to solve the scandal of abuse that has swept the Church of that country. It was after the Pope received the findings of the Archbishop, that the Pope summoned the South American country’s bishops’ to Rome, they all resigned, and the Pope accepted various resignations, including of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno.

Moreover, he discussed his hopes for the Pope’s upcoming summit gathering the presidents of all the world’s bishops conferences on the topic of ‘protection of minors’ and vulnerable, an unprecedented move by any Pope, suggesting this encounter will be the venue to concretely tackle abuse, prevention and accountability, not the synod.

“We are going to have an important meeting in February. The Pope has called all the presidents of the national bishops conferences. I think that is the moment where we need to put on the agenda not only the question of prevention, but also of accountability.”

Responding to ZENIT’s question about what he believes ought to come out of the February meeting in order for it to be effective, he said: “I am not in charge of the February meeting, which is a blessing,” he joked. “I think the agenda is a tall agenda, which I would expect as a bishop. I am part of it because I am the president of probably the smallest bishops’ conference in the world.”

“My expectation being invited ex-ufficio for that meeting is that in having all these different cultures coming together, we need to realize this is not a problem linked to any culture or any geographical area, as used to be said. I think that is a myth that must be dispelled. But, we do realize that there are different ways of tackling the issues on the ground.”

Shame, Fear, an Impediment

“That is,” he explained, “there are cultures where shame is the impediment to disclosure. For others, it is fear.”

“We,” the Archbishop urged, “need to come together to realize that we need to empower ourselves and our communities to disclose abuse and to get to the roots of it.”

Archbishop Scicluna observed that Pope Francis calls this clericalism, adding: “we must be more concrete on what does that mean.”

“What the Pope says, when he talks about clericalism, as the source of the nurturing humus (root) of abuse in the Church is that there is there is a perversion of ministry and looking at ministry as a source of power rather than of service. That is something that we need to tackle because we need to go through all the issues.”

“We need to tackle questions of: formation of clergy, screening of clergy, cooperation with the civil authorities, but fundamentally the empowerment of our communities to give an effective response, because it is not only the question of stewardship by the bishops, this is something that concerns everybody, everywhere.”

“I think that is the motive,” he said.

Synod’s Scope Is Greater, But Accountability to Be Targeted in February

When asked about whether seeking to create a structure of accountability for bishops has been discussed, the Archbishop  said: “not that I know of,” but adding that the synod’s scope is much greater.

“We know there is a great expectation of great accountability. Now, how is that going to develop? I think we need to trust Pope Francis to develop a system whereby there is greater accountability.”

But the Synod, he reminded, is not about sex abuse of minors. The February encounter is the best forum for addressing this, he said, because it is going to be a dedicated forum. “I don’t expect to see quick answers at this synod. There are so many other things that we need to discuss. But I do think the February meeting, will be the right venue, where this will be on the agenda.”

One journalist noted that according to a Pew Research Center poll, Pope Francis is experiencing less favorability on his treatment of sex abuse, asking the Archbishop’s thoughts on this.

“Give him time,” Archbishop Scicluna responded.

Speaking to journalists on Sept. 14, including Zenit, in Poznan, Poland, who were on the ground for the Plenary Assembly of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) taking place, Sept. 13-16, the Archbishop of Malta stressed the Pope and Church’s  commitment to combat this scandal.

Among the concrete measures to help prevent these situations, Archbishop Scicluna underscored, is to have effective pre-screening of the soundness of those who express their interest in becoming a priest.

“This summit,” he told press, “is a very strong sign of a commitment to the defense of the dignity and protection of minors in the Church. This call, this invitation,” the Pope’s trusted abuse investigator emphasized, “says one fundamental thing: that the issue of preventing abuse and the protection of minors commits the whole Church and commits everyone in the Church.”

2011 Circular Letter With Strong Guidelines Must Be Fully Implemented Everywhere

The meeting, the prelate noted, already points out a very clear position the Holy See took in 2011 when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith addressed to all the Bishops’ Conferences of the world a circular letter. This document, he noted, “pointed out fundamental attitudes of response to the sad phenomenon of child abuse but also indicated the need to carry forward the intense, but necessary work of guidelines for every nation in the world.”

Many episcopal conferences, he said, followed suit. The majority, the Archbishop said, responded to this invitation and in the years that followed 2011, all the guidelines were examined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“Already in 2011, the circular letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith indicated the human formation of candidates for priesthood and religious life as one of the important and fundamental aspects. But already in 1992 there was a prophetic message of St. John Paul II in the Post-Synodal Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis which spoke of the formation of future priests.”

This exhortation, Archbishop Scicluna stated, “valued in a prophetic and urgent way the question of human formation, psychological screening and even a clear and timely evaluation of the candidate from the point of view of suitability to the ministry on the key of emotional suitability and of the suitability to be a pastor and father for the flock.”

During today’s briefing in the Holy See Press Office, Archbishop Scicluna reiterated these points, stressing it is necessary that bishops conferences, everywhere, must make sure that the created policies and guidelines, are implemented; he lamented that this implementation has not always taken place.

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Full Text of Pope St John Paul II’s Post-Synodal Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis: http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_25031992_pastores-dabo-vobis.html

CONGREGATIO PRO DOCTRINA FIDEI: CIRCULAR LETTER TO ASSIST EPISCOPAL CONFERENCES IN DEVELOPING GUIDELINES FOR DEALING WITH CASES OF SEXUAL ABUSES OF MINORS PERPETRATED BY CLERICS: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20110503_abuso-minori_en.html

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FEATURE: Archbishop Scicluna: February Summit, From Words & Documents to Concrete Actions

About Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is a 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, EWTN and Salt & Light. For 'The Other Francis': https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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