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Scant Progress on Reforms a Year after Vatican’s Abuse Summit

VATICAN CITY – One year has passed since a historic summit in the Vatican where Bishops and Cardinals listened to victims of abuse, but little progress has been made in the way of reforms since the unprecedented meeting.

On Feb. 21, 2019, over the course of a week, 190 representatives of Catholic Church gathered with the intention to agree on specific measures in response to allegations of abuse within the institution.

But activists and victims and survivors organizations, while welcoming Pope Francis’ move, say much remains to be done.

Priest Hans Zollner, a member of the summit’s organizing committee and the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors created by Pope Francis, told EFE the meeting “was a milestone in recognizing and accepting that the abuse of vulnerable individuals is a global problem and that the Church must be at the forefront of the development and implementation of best practices aimed at protecting children and the most vulnerable adults to safeguard their dignity and opportunities for growth.”

Zollner, who is also president of the Center for Child Protection of the Pontifical Gregorian University, said that following the summit, several laws were enacted to combat cases of abuse.

The Vatican was keen to set an example with the promulgation of laws and guidelines regarding the protection of minors and vulnerable people.

Last June, “Pope Francis with his motu proprio ‘Vos estis lux mundi’ changed the law of the Church regarding reports of harassment and violence and the ways in which bishops must assume relative responsibilities,” Zoller added.

The Pope’s paper published on 9 May 2019, established a set of new universal norms to combat sexual abuse and to guarantee members of the clergy are held accountable for their actions.

“As of Jan. 1, 2020, all documents produced in canonical processes related to cases of sexual abuse can be delivered, upon request, to the legitimate authorities of the respective countries,” Zollner added about the lifting of the rule of pontifical secrecy regarding cases of sexual abuse.

When asked about the dissatisfaction among activists that enough has not been done, Zollner said that victims recognize the church has embarked on a long journey.

“For a year we have seen profound changes in many areas and countries. We certainly continue on the path to an increasingly safe church,” the Jesuit priest added.

The Pope’s motu proprio forces clerics to denounce any presumed sexual abuse or abuse of power abuse by a member of the clergy and establishes the procedures to be followed in the dioceses, as well as demanding speedy preliminary investigations.

The document further obliges episcopal conferences to create a system by June 2020 that is accessible to anyone who wishes to make a complaint, whilst offering full protection and assistance to whistleblowers.

The Pope’s new instructions also clearly state that “an obligation to keep silent may not be imposed on any person with regard to the contents of his or her report.”

“Not much has been done. There has been an impulse, a lever on the part of Pope Francis and his close collaborators, but in general and, especially in Spain, it is not enough,” Juan Cuatrecasas, the father of a victim and president of Infancia Robada (Stolen Childhood) association told EFE.

“We are halfway there, it is the best that can be said after a year,” Matthias Katsch, a victim of abuse by a priest and one of the founders of the Ending Clergy Abuse network, said in a meeting with the international press in Rome.

“Victims are talking more with the press, which is reporting on it. It is a first step. We know that the Church itself will not change things, public opinion has to pile on the pressure, and for that, it is very important that survivors talk. “

For Katsch, the Catholic Church is experiencing an ongoing global crisis.

“We have not overcome it. The Pope has tried to change some laws and some aspects, but it has not had the impact that would be needed in all places,” Katsch added.

Those responsible for Bishop Accountability applauded the steps taken by the pontiff but pointed out that it has not had the same impact in all countries.

In its report the organization said that 50 percent of reported cases had been aired thanks to investigations by members of the media, adding that the Church had not issued internal reports nor had any plans to give victims compensation.

In Mexico, the report said not much was known as to whether specific measures had been taken and that there continued to be 271 priests that were registered child abusers and five ministers convicted of these crimes although no names were given.


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