The Palace on Friday said the “pained admission” by Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle about the problem of child abuse validated President Rodrigo Duterte’s previous criticism of the church and clerics.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo expressed Duterte’s optimism that the church would “reform itself” and be rid of child abuse.
“Cardinal Tagle’s pained admission on the clergy’s long kept secret abomination is part of the wrenching and cleansing process that the Church is undergoing,” Panelo added.
In his presentation on the first day of the summit convened by Pope Francis, Tagle weighed in on the cases of sex abuse committed by erring priests to the children.
“The abuse of minors by ordained ministers has inflicted wounds not only on the victims but also on their families, the clergy, the church, the wider society, the perpetrators themselves, and the bishops,” Tagle said in his speech.
The Catholic leader admitted that bishops like himself, in one way or another, inflict wounds on sex abuse victims by allowing a culture of cover-up to protect priests, bishops, and the church from criticisms.
Pope Francis on Thursday opened a landmark Vatican summit on fighting child sex abuse, calling for concrete measures and handing top Catholic bishops a roadmap to tackling pedophilia in the church.
Also, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said the number of priests involved in consensual but prohibited relations outnumbered those engaged in child abuse.
In an interview with GMA-7, Fr. Jerome Secillano, the executive secretary of the CBCP’s Committee on Public Affairs, said cases of child abuse by priests in the Philippines were not too common, unlike in the United States and Europe.
“The holy people of God look to us, and expect from us not simple and predictable condemnations, but concrete and effective measures to be undertaken. We need to be concrete,” the Pope said as the summit opened, the first of its kind.
“Hear the cry of the little ones who plead for justice,” he said as the three-and-a-half day meeting began.
During the conference in Rome, Tagle was two seats away from Pope Francis at the Vatican’s Aula Nuova del Sinodo. He was also the only Filipino chosen to deliver a speech along with eight others during the conference.
In the same summit, the Bishop of Rome called those who constantly criticize the Church “friends, cousins, and relatives of the devil,” but Panelo said the President did not feel alluded to in that remark.
“One of the better critics of the Church is the Pope himself. He criticizes the members of the Church who are engaged in what he perceives to be immorality which is outside of the teachings of Christ or the internal discipline of the Church,” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing Thursday.
“When he addressed those members of the Church who could not be celibate to leave the Church, he is a critic. But it does not mean also that when you criticize you are evil. You’re just expressing concern and opposition to certain irregular behavior.”
Francis handed out a 21-point list of “guidelines,” which included suggestions such as drawing up mandatory codes of conduct for priests, training people to spot abuse and informing police.
Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, one of the summit’s organizers, described the proposals as “a roadmap for the future development of policy” which “governs all aspects of getting it right.”
The ongoing scandals have escalated into a crisis that has touched many countries across the globe, with recent cases affecting Chile, Germany and the US.
In the latest case, a group supporting victims of padophile priests in Poland on Thursday released a report documenting nearly 400 cases of sex abuse by clerics in the staunchly Catholic country.
In Rome, the 82-year-old pontiff hopes to raise awareness about abuse through prayers, speeches, working groups and testimonies from victims.
The summit, he said, was a moment to “turn this evil into an opportunity for awareness and purification” and “heal the grave wounds that the scandal of pedophilia has caused, both in the little ones and in believers.”
Those gathered heard from unnamed abuse survivors, one of whom told them: “You are the physicians of the soul and yet, with rare exceptions, you have been transformed—in some cases—into murderers of the soul, into murderers of the faith.”
Another described the horrors of being forced to undergo three abortions after being raped by a priest.
The summit aims to educate 114 senior bishops on how to spot and deal with abuse and pedophilia.
“We humbly and sorrowfully admit that wounds have been inflicted by us bishops on the victims and in fact the entire body of Christ,” Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle told the assembly.
“Our lack of response to the suffering of victims, even to the point of rejecting them and covering up the scandal to protect perpetrators and the institution, has injured our people, leaving a deep wound in
our relationship with those we are sent to serve,” he said.
The scale of the task has been further complicated by the fact that some churches, in Asia and Africa in particular, deny the problem exists.
Cardinal Blase Cupich, one of the pope’s trusted allies in the United States and one of the summit’s four organizers, said he hoped people “see this as a turning point.”
The US Catholic Church is undergoing one of the worst crises in its history following last week’s defrocking of a former cardinal—American Theodore McCarrick—for sexually abusing a teenager 50 years ago.
Scicluna had said ahead of the meeting that reforms in the pipeline would see canon law “tweaked.”
But the suggestion that Church laws only need fine-tuning has angered many, including Anne Barrett Doyle, the co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a public database that documents cases of proven or suspected sex crimes by clerics.
“Canon law has to be changed: Not tweaked, not modified, but fundamentally changed, so that it stops prioritizing the priesthood… over the lives of children, and vulnerable adults who are sexually assaulted by them,” she said.
Colombian Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez told the meeting that those most responsible for the crisis, “are among us. We must recognize that the enemy is within us.”
Scicluna insisted that summoning Church leaders from across the globe to Rome “is, in itself, a very important message”.
Outside the Vatican, victims from the international association ECA (Ending Clerical Abuse) held a vigil to support each other.
“My presence here is a cry for help on behalf of African victims who remain silent,” said Benjamin Kitobo, who now lives in the United States. With AFP