Vatican: Abuse summit to help bishops know 'what they need to do'


Vatican City, Jan 16, 2019 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Just over a month ahead of the much-anticipated February meeting on sex abuse, the Vatican said the summit’s goal is for bishops to leave the meeting knowing clearly what it is they need to do to stop the abuse of minors.

According to a statement by papal spokesperson Alessandro Gisotti Jan. 16, the February meeting “has a concrete purpose: the goal is that all of the bishops clearly understand what they need to do to prevent and combat the worldwide problem of the sexual abuse of minors.”

“It is fundamental for the Holy Father,” Gisotti said, that the bishops of the February gathering, when they have returned home, “understand the laws to be applied and that they take the necessary steps to prevent abuse, to care for the victims, and to make sure that no case is covered up or buried.”

It was also stated that Pope Francis wants the summit of bishops to be “an assembly of Pastors, not an academic conference,” and that he knows “a global problem can only be resolved with a global response.”

It will be a meeting “characterized by prayer and discernment, a catechetical and working gathering,” the statement read.

It concluded by drawing attention to the high expectations surrounding the summit, recalling that the Church is “not at the beginning of the fight against abuse,” but that the meeting is just one step along a “painful journey” the Church has “decisively undertaken” for the last 15 years.

According to the Vatican, the February meeting will include plenary sessions, working groups, moments of prayer, listening to victim testimonies, a penitential liturgy, and a final Mass.

Pope Francis will be present for the entirety of the gathering.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, president of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation and former director of the Holy See Press Office has been asked by Pope Francis to moderate the plenary sessions.

The gathering, which will take place Feb. 21-24, is focused on the protection of minors from sexual abuse within the Church. The pope has asked the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences, and the heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches, to attend.

The U.S. bishops expected to attend are United States Conference of Bishops President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Vice-President Jose Gomez, and Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, who is on the planning committee of the summit.

One part of the preparation for the meeting is a questionnaire which bishops were asked to fill out and submit to the planning committee by January 15.

Participating bishops were also urged to meet with victims of clergy sexual abuse in their own countries in advance of the gathering.


Pope Francis: 'God loves you, even if you forget Him'


Vatican City, Jan 16, 2019 / 05:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- God the Father will always be there for his beloved children, Pope Francis said Wednesday, with a reminder that the unconditional love of God is not limited by our own sense of guilt or unworthiness.

“God is looking for you, even if you do not seek Him. God loves you, even if you forget Him. God sees beauty in you, even if you think you have squandered all your talents in vain,” Pope Francis said in his general audience Jan. 16.

The pope reflected on the first two words of the “Our Father,” focusing on the depth of personal love for each person found within God’s fatherhood.

“It may be that we too happen to walk on paths far from God, as happened to the prodigal son; or fall into a loneliness that makes us feel abandoned in the world; or, again, do wrong and are paralyzed by a sense of guilt,” Pope Francis explained.

In those moments, one’s prayer should simply start by saying the word, “Father,” with the tenderness of a child who calls out “Papa” or “Abbà,” in the original Aramaic, Francis said.

“You have a father who loves you!” Pope Francis said enthusiastically. Call out to God as “Father,” and God will answer you, he said.

If you respond to God by saying, “But, Father, I have done this ...” God will answer, “I never lost sight of you. I saw everything. But I was always there, close to you, faithful to my love for you,” Pope Francis said.

To call God “Father,” the pope explained, is to have  “the whole world of Jesus poured into one's heart.”

Pope Francis described the intimacy of the Aramaic expression “Abbà” used twice in the letters of St. Paul. In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul wrote, “As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!'"

Francis repeated the words that Italian children use, “Papa” and “Babbo” - which are roughly equivalent to saying “Daddy” in English - to exemplify the depth and closeness found in the word “Abba.”

“We continue to say ‘Our Father,’ but with the heart we are invited to say ‘Papa,’ to have a relationship with God like that of a child with his father, who says ‘Papa, Babbo,’” he said.

“These expressions evoke love, evoke warmth, something that projects us into the context of childhood: the image of a child completely enveloped by the embrace of a father who feels infinite tenderness for him,” he said.

Pope Francis continued, “dear brothers and sisters, to pray well, we must get to have a child's heart … like a child in the arms of his father.”


The Church and sexuality: An interview with Cardinal Brandmüller


Vatican City, Jan 9, 2019 / 10:50 am (CNA).- Cardinal Walter Brandmüller made headlines last week, after he told German news agency DPA that debate over the clerical sexual abuse crisis should not “forget or silence the fact that 80% of the cases of sexual assault in the Church affected male youths not children,” adding that a connection between homosexuality and sexual abuse has been “statistically proven.”

Brandmüller, 90, told the news agency Friday that “only a vanishingly small number” of priests has committed sexual abuse, and that it was “hypocritical” to focus only on the sexual abuse crisis in the Church.

“What has happened in the Church is nothing other than what is happening in society as a whole,” he said.

In an interview with CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language sister agency, the church historian explained his remarks - and pointed to causes of the Church crisis and possible solutions:


Your Eminence, your interview on Friday has generated a great deal of attention. How do you deal with the reporting and the reactions?

What secular media makes of statements that do not correspond to the worldview of the reporting journalists might well raise certain questions. But I was concerned with scandals that are more important than how I am being dealt with as a person.

You’re referring to the abuse scandals and their coverup?

Well, I would argue  that the real scandal is that when it comes to this issue, clergy and employees of the Church are not sufficiently distinguishable from society overall. The apostle Paul admonished the Romans, "do not be conformed to this world." [[12:2]]

[But] sexual abuse - in whatever form - is anything but a specifically Catholic phenomenon.

How is that to be understood in this context?

The sexualization of society over decades - think of Oswalt Kolle and Beate Uhse - has left its mark on Catholics and those in the employ of the Church. This statement may help explain the heinousness of the transgressions, but is by no means an excuse!

[ed. Note: Oswalt Kolle was an author, filmmaker, advocate for the sexual revolution in Germany, prominent during the 1960s and 1970s. Beate Uhse AG is a German distributor of pornography, “sex toys,” and lingerie.]

In other words,  the role and self-conception of the clergy are at the heart of the issue?

First of all, it must be emphatically emphasized that hundreds of thousands of priests and religious people faithfully and selflessly serve God and men. To put them under general suspicion is just as offensive as unjustified, considering the tiny percentage of abusers. On the other hand, it equally is an excessively narrow view of reality to look only at the Catholic Church.

But surely one must be differentiate between abuse in the Church and across society?

Absolutely.

It would be no less unrealistic to forget or conceal that 80 percent of cases of abuse in the church context were perpetrated against male adolescents, not children. This relationship between abuse and homosexuality has been statistically proven - but it has nothing to do with homophobia, whatever one might mean by that term.

How can sexual misconduct and abuse be prevented in principle? Irrespective of whether it is perpetrated against minors or adults, men or women?

In the first place it will be necessary, before any religious consideration, to once again refamiliarize and deepen our understanding of the principles of sexual morality brought about by human nature being that of man and woman. John Paul II, with his Theology of the Body, has made a groundbreaking contribution on this matter.

Surely such an understanding would particularly be required of the clergy, and anyone in a teaching capacity, both in terms of educating on this matter and themselves actually living it?

Indeed, this doctrinal teaching of John Paul II should also form the basis for the selection and formation of future priests and religious educators. Then we should pay attention to their psycho-physical constitution. However, it should not be forgotten that all of this is not just about psychology and sociology, but rather about recognizing a true vocation coming from God. Especially when it comes to priests! Only when these aspects are duly considered and taken into account can a candidate be admitted to ordination.

This is also what Pope Francis has said on several occasions.

By the way: Experienced rigor in the selection of candidates also leads to a higher attractiveness of the priestly profession.

Given this falls under a bishop’s bailiwick, surely theirs is a key role in bringing this about?

The present crisis can only be overcome if, above all, the bishops understand it as a call and an incentive to a new spiritual awakening, drawing on the roots of our Faith. Is it not it astounding that the "conventional" seminars of so-called traditionalist communities, especially in France but not only there, have no shortage of seminarians? So why not adopt this model for success?

In the face of the current crisis, the credibility of the Church as a moral institution is severely shaken in the eyes of many. What is more, Catholics are asking themselves in which direction the Church is headed.

The question I ask myself is whether there really is any direction. Is the Church not tossed back and forth on contradictory currents? Can one recognize any direction at all?

In any case, it is obvious that - at least in Western Europe - Church statements are more or less in line with the social mainstream, and that purely secular matters often determine the speeches and actions of ecclesiastical authorities instead of following the lead of Benedict XVI, who in his speech in Freiburg in 2011 talked about the necessary detachment from worldliness [Entweltlichung], which promptly was misunderstood and even met with disapproval.

In the meantime, even some bishops, especially in the field of morality, have expressed views that are diametrically opposed to Scripture. But in doing so, one removes oneself from the very foundations of the Church’s existence.

So the Church and its foundations are still in their place?

Naturally. And of course it is all the more embarrassing when a financially potent but spiritually foundering  Church in Germany reckons it has a mandate to lecture its "poorer brothers and sisters" in - of all places - regions where  the Church is experiencing a period of spiritual vitality and growth, ie in Eastern and Northeast Europe as well as regions such as Africa and Asia.

What is also noteworthy in the West, however, is the phenomenon of religious awakenings among the youth, who are unimpressed with the decline around them.

"Fluctuat nec mergitur" - This expression is written on the coat of arms of the city of Paris, which shows a ship on high waves: Despite being tossed back and forth, it is not lost! In fact, Jesus Christ is on board even when he appears to be asleep. This is a depiction of of the Church.

 

Translation provided by AC Wimmer.