By Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent
ROME – After meeting with victims of sexual abuse on Friday, the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See affirmed its support of Pope Francis’ efforts to rid the Catholic Church of abuse.
“The United States unequivocally condemns the abuse and exploitation of children wherever it occurs and continues to support efforts to pursue justice and protect victims,” said Ambassador Callista Gingrich.
The meeting, which took place at the U.S. Embassy in Rome, marked the first time victims has met with U.S. state department officials since the explosion of the Church’s sexual abuse and cover-up crisis and comes at a time when over a dozen states are pursuing their own internal investigations into the Catholic Church’s handling of such cases and when rumors of a potential federal investigation are underway.
“Today I had the opportunity to meet with survivors of clerical sexual abuse in the United States and hear their personal stories,” said Gingrich. “The United States President Trump takes this issue very seriously and has expressed his sadness at the allegations of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The United States Embassy to the Holy See has engaged senior Vatican officials on this matter and will continue to do so.”
Friday’s meeting came at the initiation of the survivors advocacy group Ending Clergy Abuse and comes during Pope Francis’ historic meeting with bishops from around the world over the global crisis of clergy sex abuse.
In attendance were survivors of clergy abuse and activists, among them Peter Isely, a founding member of the organization and its spokesman.
Following the meeting, Isely described it to The Tablet as “historic” and said it marked a critical turning point between relations between survivors and the U.S. government.
“We’re hoping this is the beginning our relationship,” he said.
During the meeting, he said they discussed the ways in which state sovereignty is used by the Vatican and around the world to cover-up child sex crimes.
Isely said that Gingrich told him that the U.S. embassy is discussing this matter with the Vatican, which he viewed as a positive step forward.
“Victims in the U.S. have no idea what our government is doing on this issue,” he said.
He also said the Gingrich pledged to serve as a liaison between victims from the United States and officials from the Department of Justice who may be investigating cases of sexual abuse and cover-up.
He also said that he hoped that the various ambassadors to the Holy See could work together brining information from their respective countries to help educate the Vatican on the global crisis of clergy abuse.
“Victims need to hear that you’re behind us,” Isely said he told Gingrich before leaving the meeting. “We’re U.S. citizens and our basic rights as citizen were violated.”