Today marks a groundbreaking day of recognition for sexual abuse survivors of the Catholic church. This week Pope Francis held an emergency Vatican summit with 34 bishops connected to the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal. The Pope confessed there has been “grave negligence” in investigating abuse and protecting children within the Catholic church.
The “grave errors in judgment” occurred in the case of Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused by victims of Chilean priest, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, of witnessing and ignoring their abuse.
Amidst the summit, on Tuesday, Pope Francis delivered his morning homily in which he reflected on St. Paul discerning when to leave his flock in the care of others, a decision Francis said all bishops must make. This was taken as a sign that the Chilean bishops may step down, and in fact, they did.
All 31 active bishops who attended the summit in Rome signed a document offering to resign.
Francis said the investigation showed there were “grave defects” in the way abuse cases were handled, with superficial investigations or no investigation at all.
In other cases, there was “grave negligence” in protecting children from pedophiles by bishops and religious superiors — a reference to the many instances of sexual abuse that have arisen in recent years within Chilean religious orders, including the Salesians, Franciscans, and the Marist Brothers community.
It’s now up to Francis, who has a movie after him out today called “A Man of His Word” to accept, reject, or delay a decision as to whether the bishops resign. The bishops will stay in place until he acts. We can only pray that the victims receive the peace of mind they deserve.
“They didn’t know how to protect the weakest, exposed them to abuse and then impeded justice,” said Jose Andres Murillo, one of those abused and one of the main whistle-blowers in the case. “For this, they deserve only to go.”
There is great significance in the recognition and apology that took place as an entire national bishops’ conference resigned en masse admitting they covered up for pedophiles. This alone is a landmark after the sheer denial of the sexual abuse that has pervaded the Catholic church worldwide.
Within the Popes Tuesday homily, he also mentioned he was considering taking leave of his flock. He said when he reads about St. Paul discerning when to leave, he thinks about himself because “I’m a bishop and I’ll have to take my leave.” Could this be another precursor since the pope himself covered for the Chilean hierarchy, appointing Barros bishop of Osorno, Chile in 2015, and saying the accusations against Barros were “calumny?”
After becoming aware of his mistakes, Pope Francis blamed a “lack of truthful and balanced information” for his missteps, and invited the three main whistle-blowers to the Vatican so he could apologize in person.
A Prayer for the Survivors of Sexual Abuse
In Jesus name,
We pray for a restoration of all the years the effects of sexual abuse, humiliation, and discrediting took from the survivors. Lord would you show them their strength through you and teach them real unconditional Godly love. Abuse done by a supposed religious authority, someone who is meant to be close to you, God, not only robs the victim of their innocence but in some cases their relationship with you. Lord Jesus draw near to every survivor of sexual abuse breaking off all fear and letting them know that you never left them, even in the darkest moments of their lives you were there crying along with them for the great injustices of this world.
The Bible says in Isaiah 61:7 “For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them.” Heavenly Father, we ask that you would teach the survivors how to claim this promise from you, for you Lord are not a man that you should lie. Help them to transform their pain into power, the mess into a message of your grace and mercy.
Lord Jesus, give them the same forgiving heart that you had on the cross when you said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” empowering them to move on from their former troubles and to walk confidently with you. It is only through you Lord Jesus that they can reclaim what was stolen from them, many times at a young age. No man can heal the brokenness that such abuse causes, but you Lord draw near to the brokenhearted and save the crushed in spirit. Thank you, God, for your promises and the mighty power of redemption you provide to all who believe in you.
In Jesus name, Amen!