So Pope Francis is planning a sex abuse prevention summit scheduled for February 21-24, 2019, but organizers of the event have apparently become worried the Catholic Church might not have a whole lot of credibility when it comes to talking about that sorta thing.
We can’t imagine why!
On Tuesday, organizers rushed out a letter urging bishops who plan on attending the summit to “reach out to victims before they get to Rome” and let them know that “accountability is very much on the agenda.”
As a first step, they urged the estimated 130 presidents of national bishops’ conferences attending the summit to meet with survivors in their home countries “to learn firsthand the suffering that they have endured.”
Francis invited the church leaders to the meeting to develop a comprehensive response to what has become the gravest threat to his papacy, as the abuse and cover-up scandal erupted anew in the U.S., Chile and elsewhere this year.
“They’re just now getting around to this?” Barbara Dorris, a sexual abuse survivor and longtime outspoken advocate for victims, tells NPR. “Good Lord, where’ve you been?”
The first Catholic Church sex abuse scandal reported was in 2001.
“It’s been 17 years,” Dorris notes. “If you haven’t met with survivors in 17 years, I think that says a lot right there.”
In revealing the first details of the meeting, the Vatican said it would focus on three main areas: responsibility, accountability and transparency. The reference to accountability suggests that church leaders will confront not only the crimes of priests who rape and molest minors, but the cover-up by their superiors as well.
Abuse victims and their advocates have long blasted the Vatican for failing to discipline and remove bishops who fail to protect their flocks, and until recently Francis appeared unwilling to significantly change course.
Greg Burke, a spokesperson for the Vatican, says the summit “is a concrete way of putting victims first and acknowledging the horror of what happened.”
Until, of course, the next cover up.