Archbishop Scicluna Says February Meeting Start of ‘Global Approach’ to Fighting Sex Abuse By Gerard O’Connell

Archbishop Scicluna Says February Meeting Start of ‘Global Approach’ to Fighting Sex Abuse

By Gerard O’Connell

Archbishop Charles Scicluna, center, has been chosen as part of a steering committee to lead the meeting of bishops’ conferences from around the world in February. (CNS photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Santiago)

In a decision highlighting the great importance he gives to next February’s summit meeting on “the protection of minors in the church,” to which he has called the presidents of all the Catholic bishops conferences, Pope Francis has appointed a high-powered steering committee to oversee the project.

The committee is composed of two cardinals, Blase Cupich (Chicago) and Oswald Gracias (Bombay, India), and two of the church’s experts in the field: Archbishop Charles Scicluna (Malta), and Father Hans Zollner, a German Jesuit and president of the Center for Child Protection and Director and professor of psychology at the Gregorian University in Rome, who will serve as coordinator. The Vatican announced this today, November 23.

In this exclusive interview with America, Archbishop Scicluna, whom the pope recently appointed as adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and who is also the president of its tribunal for appeals, speaks about the significance and goals of the February meeting, and how it will be conducted.

The Vatican announced today the archbishop will serve on a committee overseeing the Vatican meeting along with Cardinals Blase Cupich and Oswald Gracias and Jesuit Father Hans Zollner.

He described it as “a synodal meeting, the first ever of its kind to address the issue of the sexual abuse of minors in the church.“ It is “quite significant” because it brings together the presidents of over 100 bishops conferences from around the world, and the heads of all the Eastern-rite Catholic churches. Moreover, it is “a very important sign of what we call in technical terms ‘affective collegiality,’ which means the bringing together of bishops from around the world with the Holy Father to discuss important issues and to get them to be on the same page with the Holy Father.”

He said Pope Francis called this summit meeting because “he realizes that this issue,” namely the protection of children and the prevention and addressing of sexual abuse by clergy in the church, “has to be top on the church’s agenda.” The pope realizes that “this is a global issue, it is not a case of geographical or cultural criteria, rather it is a global issue which the church would want to approach with a united front, with respect for the different cultures but with a united resolve and with people being on the same page on it.”

While acknowledging that it is only four days long (Feb. 21-24) and “is certainly not going to solve everything,” Archbishop Scicluna emphasized that “it is a very important start of a global process which will take quite some time to perfect.” As a result of this process he hopes that “a number of initiatives on a continental level will start to happen that will re-create the atmosphere of resolve, determination but also purpose which I hope will mark the Rome meeting,” and will help “to address the issues in a different number of cultures, that have their own restraints, their own important positive aspects but also deficits that have to be discussed on a continental but also local level.”
Explore America’s in-depth coverage of sexual abuse and the Catholic Church.

Archbishop Scicluna described the February meeting as “the beginning of a new approach that I hope will be global, because it concerns the whole church, but it will also have a very important local context because safeguarding is not something up-there, it can’t be abstract, it has to be lived in every parish, in every school, in every diocese, and so it has to have an effect on the local level otherwise it’s not effective at all.”

He explained that the “main goals” of the meeting “are to make bishops realize and discuss together the fact that the sexual abuse of minors is not only an egregious phenomenon in itself and a crime, but it is also a very grave symptom of something deeper, which is actually a crisis in the way we approach ministry. Some call it clericalism, others call it a perversion of the ministry.”

He recalled that Pope Francis “has talked a lot about the way we go on with the stewardship of the community, not only as bishops but also as priests,” and said “the issue not only concerns the individual tragic cases of misconduct and the impact of that crime on the most vulnerable, the children, but also the way stewardship is exercised when we are faced with the issues; so the way we treat perpetrators, the way we treat victims, the way we treat the community.” All this will be discussed in February.

“Accountability is part of stewardship,” the archbishop stated. “Stewardship is not only accountability to God and to our conscience, but also to our community,” he explained; “stewardship means doing your job and doing it properly, especially when it is a question of care,” whereas “cover-up” is “the antithesis of stewardship.” “When you cover-up,” he said, “you are actually not solving a problem, you are deciding not to address it, you are deciding to hide important consequences and avoid the demands of justice, which is certainly not good stewardship.” He emphasized that “we have to move away from panic-driven policies that put the good name of the institution above all other considerations” and “in the end, those policies do reputational damage to the institution; they are actually also counterproductive, and it’s a no-go area.” He insisted that “we need to move forward from any temptation to cover up any crimes. It is only the truth will set us free.”

Archbishop Scicluna declared that “if we have a sickness in the body of the church, we need to face it, not to hide it, because otherwise it will grow and do more damage.” He recalled that Pope Francis “addressed the question of accountability in a law that he promulgated in 2016,” in the decree “As a Loving Mother,” which “creates a procedure whereby bishops who are negligent or not up to standard with their stewardship can be removed.” Indeed, he said, “there is an old tradition according to which, if the bishop is going to cause harm with his stewardship, then the See of Rome has the right and the duty to remove such a bishop.”

In this context, he emphasized that “we cannot avoid the important theological aspect that we bishops are stewards in a hierarchical communion together with the Holy Father, and so there is a jurisdiction of the Holy Father over each and every one of us bishops that we have to respect when we talk of accountability within the context of the Roman Catholic Church.”

He said the February meeting aims to get bishops and religious superiors “to realize the gravity of the situation,” to accept ownership of the issue, and then “to address questions of stewardship,” which means “not only how we care about our children, but also how we deal with cases [of abuse] and so questions of accountability and transparency are of the utmost importance,” and will be discussed at the meeting.

In this context, he said, “we bishops need to approach the issue of the sexual abuse of minors together as churches, and we also need to adopt what Pope Francis is calling ‘a synodal approach,’ that is we cannot do it alone in our community, we need also to empower the lay people, the laity, in order to help us be good stewards.”

He believes the meeting will communicate “the important message” that “the prevention of abuse and protection and safeguarding of our children and young people is not a question only of the bishop, it is a synodal issue; it is something that involves the whole church and everyone in the church around the world; it concerns one and all.”

Insisting on “this synodal aspect,” Archbishop Scicluna said, “it is not only bringing the bishops together but also approaching it on the local level as a community, in a synodal process. It takes a village to educate a child, and it takes a village to prevent abuse and to approach it properly wherever, unfortunately, it happens.”

He said Pope Francis wants the church to move forward on this question in a synodal manner, following the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council. He explained that “synodality means that we appreciate the different charisms and gifts of the laity, their expertise, and that we empower them to join bishops in the role of stewardship.” He added, “it’s not a question of having control over the hierarchy, it is the hierarchy empowering and facilitating the sharing of charisms which the Spirit also gives to the laity, because there are gifts there that will help issues of prevention and safeguarding that we need to bring on board, and we need to facilitate as bishops.”

He recalled that Pope Francis highlighted this synodal aspect in confronting abuse in his “Letter to the People of God” before his visit to Dublin last August; “he wants that to be on the agenda of every conference of bishops around the world” and at the Rome meeting he wants the bishops “to listen to victims, to talk to experts, and to listen to each other and to the concern that this issue brings before them.”

He expects the February meeting in process and structure to be somewhat like a synod in so far as “there are going to be plenary sessions; there are going to be language groups working, and then reporting back; there are going to be prayer groups; there are going to be listening to different stake-holders. It’s going to be a mixture of information, formation, discussion. The idea is that certain values are not only agreed upon, but also that certain priorities are put forward and adopted by the bishops.”

There will be “a penitential liturgy” during the meeting because “Pope Francis wants it,” Archbishop Scicluna said, “and victims are going to be a part of that liturgy too, just as they will be consulted in advance of the meeting, and be listened to during it.”

Some have spoken about the need for changes in Canon Law so as to deal properly with the abuse issue. Commenting on this, Archbishop Scicluna said, “Canon law always follows reality. To a certain extent it does form people in a certain context like the 1983 code of canon law did form a generation in the implementation of Vatican II.” Since canon law follows reality, he said, “it will have to change in response to new issues and new priorities in the church.” He envisaged, for example, the possibility of changes that would give “a stronger role for the metropolitan bishops” and “a bigger role for the victims in canonical penal processes.” He doesn’t think the February meeting “is going to enter into the details of such reforms of canon law” but he expects that “there will be an important input that will start a process that may actually get a reform of canon law.”

Archbishop Scicluna hopes “that the spirit of this meeting will be positive and proactive, and will also help to give a sign of hope to the bishops themselves, to the whole church, to the People of God, and, importantly to leadership at all levels in the church.”

The Vatican announced that in addition to the presidents of the bishops conferences and the heads of the Eastern-rite Catholic churches, there will be other participants too at the February meeting, including the prefects of the C.D.F. and the congregations for the evangelization of peoples, the oriental churches, bishops, the institutes of consecrated life and the societies of apostolic life, and of the dicastery for laity, the family and life. Representatives of the Union of Religious Superiors and of the International Union of Superiors Generals are also invited.
The Maltese archbishop underlined the importance of the presence of these major superiors because “they have hundreds of religious under their care, most of them priests but also even lay religious and they also are important stakeholders in education, in formation and in pastoral care. Superior Generals for women religious will also be present. It is very, very important to have the major superiors present and part of this process.”

In its statement today, the Vatican revealed that besides the four members of the steering committee, many other people are involved in the preparation for the meeting, including lay experts and two lay women who are under-secretaries from the dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life: Gabriella Gambino and Linda Ghisoni. The Commission for the Protection of Minors, headed by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, is also involved and, most importantly, so too are “some victims of abuse by clergy.”

Referring to the steering committee, Archbishop Scicluna said Pope Francis chose its four members to be “responsible for the organization” and “for advising him” and the Secretariat of States. Their task is to oversee the preparation for the meeting, and to ensure that everything is done properly. He emphasized that the choice of Father Zollner as coordinator of the committee is “an important reminder” that the meeting is “not only about stewardship, it’s also about reflective stewardship”; he brings “the expertise of psychology and best practices in prevention, which have to be part and parcel of the stewardship role of the church.”

He concluded by repeating that the meeting is only “the beginning of a process” and when it ends “we’ll have to leave the Holy Father and his close collaborators any decisions for further meetings on a continental basis, on a more decentralized basis. This is the beginning of a process, it is not the beginning and end of something.”


Hello Tim. I read your article titled “life is about love and letting go”

One thought on “About Tim Lott”
Mark Murray
JULY 4, 2017 AT 10:28 PM
Hello Tim.

I read your article titled “life is about love and letting go”. It helped me have a better understanding of aspects of my life that I had struggled with for many years.

I was abused as a child. I have had many years of difficulty letting my children grow and then letting them “go” and accepting that they, to, need to move on and discover their own way in this world.

And i, more than anything, want them to know that when they are doing that discovery I love them no less for it. It is, however, painful. And i cry because of the sadness of losing myself each time I loose a bit of them.

And looking at onesconfusion and unhappiness is compounded when it is tied up with childhood abuse.

After dealing with my abuse i found it difficult to accept the loss of my innocence because of what was taken away from me as a child. These mixed up emotions and feelings have impacted on the “letting go” of my own children.

That has effected my ability – even though I want to – to let go of my own children. Your article helped me in fitting some aspects of my personal jigsaw together.

I remember reading somewhere that the biggest act of love that a parent can do is “to let go ” of your children and to keep on letting go.

I still have a lot of miles to walk. And I doubt that my journey will ever be finished. But that is the nature of the journey of life is it not?

Thank you for your article.

The Guardian/Obsever have done two stories on the abuse at the Comboni Missionaries ( Verona Fathers) Catholic Seminary at Mirfield. I am on of the Comboni Survivor Group.

There is a good paragraph below that I find particularly powerful.

Best wishes.

Mark ( Murray)

Wisdom is the recovery of innocence at the far end of experience”

“I start from the conviction that many of the most important things we know are things we know before we can speak them; indeed, we know them—though with very little in the way of concepts to make them intelligible to us—even as children, and see them with the greatest immediacy when we look at them with the eyes of innocence. But, as they are hard to say, and as they are often so immediate to us that we cannot stand back from them objectively, we tend to put them out of mind as we grow older, and make ourselves oblivious to them, and try to silence the voice of knowledge that speaks within our own experiences of the world. Wisdom is the recovery of innocence at the far end of experience; it is the ability to translate some of that vision into words, however inadequate. There is a point, that is to say, where reason and revelation are one and the same.” ~ David Bentley Hart.

Monsignor John Kennedy to head of the discipline section of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith

ROME – Pope Francis on Tuesday named a new official to oversee the Vatican office that processes clerical sex abuse cases amid mounting criticism over a years-long backlog of cases and Francis’s handling of the problem.

The promotion of Monsignor John Kennedy to head of the discipline section of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith was the second abuse-related appointment in recent days. Francis named Father Hans Zollner, one of the Catholic Church’s top experts on fighting abuse and protecting children, as an adviser to the Vatican’s office for clergy on Saturday.

Francis and the Vatican have come under fresh scrutiny over their response to the abuse crisis since Irish survivor Marie Collins resigned from the pope’s sex abuse advisory commission on March 1, citing “unacceptable” resistance to the commission’s proposals from the Vatican’s doctrine office.

Collins’ departure laid bare the cultural chasm between the commission’s outside experts, who proposed best-in-class ideas for protecting children, and the reality of the Vatican bureaucracy and its legal and administrative limitations.

Kennedy was an assistant to the previous discipline section chief, Father Miguel Funes Diaz, one of three congregation officials who recently left. The Vatican spokesman, Greg Burke, said Francis had approved their replacements as well as additional staff to handle cases, which by some estimates take two to three years to process.

The congregation assumed responsibility for processing abuse cases in 2001 after then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, determined that dioceses weren’t disciplining pedophiles as church law required. The change required bishops and religious superiors to submit all credible accusations to the congregation, which decides how to proceed.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who heads Francis’s abuse advisory commission, said in a recent interview that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith needed more resources to deal with the caseload and related issues. Francis earlier this year named O’Malley to the congregation’s membership in a first key move to place commission members inside Vatican offices to lend their expertise.

Zollner, the new addition to the clergy office’s board of advisers, is another member of the pope’s abuse advisory commission. He heads the Center for Child Protection at the Jesuits’ Pontifical Gregorian University, which runs programs to train church personnel in child safety and abuse awareness.

As an adviser to the Congregation for Clergy, he will have a hand in advising the Vatican office responsible for training the world’s Catholic priests in best practices.


by Christine Niles, M.St. (Oxon.), J.D. •

SYDNEY, Australia

( – A jury has found Cdl. George Pell guilty on all counts related to sexually abusing two altar boys.

According to sources who spoke to The Daily Beast, a jury returned a unanimous verdict Tuesday against the Australian cardinal after three days of deliberation. Further details are unavailable as the court has issued a suppression order to Australian media to “prevent a real and substantial risk of prejudice to the proper administration of justice.” A previous trial resulted in a hung jury.

Pell had been accused of molesting two altar boys during a swimming trip in the 1990s, when he was bishop in Ballarat, a town northwest of Melbourne. Pell has vigorously denied the allegations, and his attorney, Robert Richter, said in 2017 that there is “voluminous” evidence to show that “what was alleged is impossible.” Pell has vigorously denied the allegations. Although multiple accusations were levelled at the cardinal initially, the court threw out most of them.
Pell was named the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy in 2014, making him the third highest-ranking cleric in Rome. He was brought in ostensibly to clean up Vatican finances, exercising oversight over Vatican properties and personnel.
His proposed reforms, however, which included demands for greater transparency, met with resistance. According to Vatican expert, Edward Pentin, the “Old Guard” resisted reform out of fears it would reveal their corruption.

Pope Francis restricted Pell’s powers without notice in a motu proprio he issued in 2016. And a financial audit by the firm PricewaterhouseCoopers was cut short by the Secretary of State after only four months.

One source who spoke with Pentin complained that the reforms were “dead, over, finished, they’ve been blocked.”

“The corruption continues; it’s just better concealed,” the inside source added, saying Vatican finances had returned to being as bad as they were before Pell’s reforms, and possibly worse.

Libero Milone, the Vatican’s auditor general, initially put in place to implement reforms, was fired in 2017, the Vatican accusing him of “spying” on officials. Milone, however, claims it was the other way around: The Vatican was spying on him, and he was fired because he had discovered financial irregularities that threatened Vatican officials.
One week later, Pell also left the Vatican’, granted permission by Pope Francis to stand trial in Australian court over charges of “historical sexual offenses.”

“All along I have been completely consistent and clear in my total rejection of these allegations,” Pell said at the time. “News of these charges strengthens my resolve and court proceedings now offer me an opportunity to clear my name and then return here back to Rome to work.”

Some have called out the pope for an apparent double standard: In September he had refused to allow Cdl. Luis Ladaria Ferrer, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to stand trial for allegations of sex abuse cover-up, citing sovereign immunity.

Clergy Abuse Survivors Share Stories At Emotional First Listening Session

Clergy Abuse Survivors Share Stories At Emotional First Listening Session

November 29, 2018 at 11:42 pm

Filed Under:Bishop David Zubik, Local TV, Pam Surano, Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese, St. Paul Cathedral

Survivors and parishioners came out to St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland on Thursday night for the first of four listening sessions since the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse.

Similar sessions are already being held in in the Greensburg Catholic Diocese.

But organizers in the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese are hoping to create a safe space so everyone can work through the healing process together.

Bishop David Zubik sat at the altar listening as one-by-one the faithful stood before him to share their pain and anger over the scandal.

“I was overcome with emotion. I spoke all across the state and didn’t have this problem until tonight, but I felt a sense of community that I haven’t felt for a long time,” said Jim VanSickle, a survivor of clergy abuse.

Nancy Pieffer, another survivor who became a social worker and advocate for rape victims, spoke for the first time publicly at the session. There was not a dry eye as she recounted the horror of her abuse as a child at the hands of a priest.

“I’m sure as I hold this experience, I will just feel the depth and the breadth of people standing for me,” said Pieffer.


You and your lot are all “money grabbers”

Mark Stephen Murray@MarkStephenMur2

“At times it seems that protecting the institution is a higher goal than caring for victims” said Deacon Robert Sondag.

That’s the case with the Italian Comboni Missionary Order.

“Money grabbers” were the words shouted at me by the Comboni Vice Superior of their Mother House in Verona to describe victims and survivors.
This verbal abuse took place just after I had met my childhood abuser, Fr.Nardo – he stated he was “very very sorry” – I then forgave him.