By Tim Harfmann
Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, is a close ally of Pope Francis and explained to his brother bishops the prime purpose for making reforms on accountability. “All mechanisms for reporting allegations of abuse, or mishandling of abuse cases against a bishop, should be transparent and well-known to the faithful,” said Cupich.
The American offered a list of three key steps in order to make sure bishops are held accountable: first, he wanted strict standards for investigating bishops who commit abuse or don’t report incidents they know about. Next, he called for lay people to ensure the reporting of any allegations made against the clerics is completely transparent. And he wanted concrete procedures for bishop accountability to be implemented worldwide. Cupich said there’s great urgency for decisive action to be taken immediately because that’s what Catholics are demanding; “They are asking themselves, ‘if Church leaders could act with so little care in giving pastoral attention in such obvious cases of a child being sexually molested, does that not reveal how detached they are from us as parents who treasure our children?”
The other main speaker at the summit on February 22nd was India’s Cardinal Oswald Gracias. He was contrite. “We must repent — and do so together, collegially — because along the way we have failed. We need to seek pardon,” said Gracias. The cardinal helped organize the summit and said clerical abuse offends God and the law; “The sexual abuse of minors and other vulnerable people not only breaks divine and ecclesiastical law, it is also public criminal behavior. The Church fully cooperates with civil authorities in these matters to bring justice to survivors and to the civil order.” Gracias mirrored Cardinal Cupich’s comments about bishops developing better standards for accountability and responsibility — and also talked about meeting with survivors. “I was numbed and could not speak. I could sense the anger, frustration, hurt, helplessness and bitterness that they felt,” said Gracias
On Saturday, February 23rd, the bishops will take on the crucial topic of being more open and transparent about incidents of clerical abuse and how to better communicate with Catholics. The summit ends on Sunday, February 24th with Mass and closing remarks from Pope Francis.