A note from Rome

Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ

The rapid response from the bishops’ conference on the sexual abuse cases has not gone unnoticed in Rome. Father Federico Lombardi SJ, chief of the Vatican press office, has released a note about how the cases are handled in the countries where they occurred: Ireland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. He acknowledges the seriousness of the crimes against the victims, but also notes the necessity of finding solutions which are not limited solely to the Church, but rather to society as a whole. Without denying the reprehensibility of sexual abuse in ecclesiastical institutions, by priests and others, he rightly notes that these cases are not exclusive to the Church. A solution must therefore neither be sought exclusively by the Church.

My translation of Fr. Lombardi’s note is here.

Press release from the bishops on abuse

Below is the official press release from the Dutch bishops, following their meeting earlier today, where they discussed their response to the sexual abuse cases that occurred in the 1950s to 1970s in several Catholic institutions.

The Dutch Bishops’ Conference, in consultation with the Conference of Dutch Religious (KNR), announces the following:

Like the management of the KNR, the bishops are deeply moved by the heartrending stories of sexual abuse which have been revealed these past days. Any form of sexual abuse must be forcefully condemned because it is at odds with the Gospel and the dignity of the human person. It is a painful realisation and a sin to be confessed that proper care for children and young people, especially in the middle of the last century, was lacking in a number of priests and religious. Contacts must obviously be pure, transparent and respectful, especially with the smallest among us (cf. Matt. 18, 1-6). To those who were victim of abuse in Catholic boarding schools, religious and bishops offer their heartfelt sympathies and apologies.

It is clear that there is a great need among the victims to be heard and so recognised. This is the first responsibility of the separate dioceses, orders and congregations. It is desireable that victims are brought in contact with the responsible people of order, congregation or diocese.

The number of reports of abuse in former Catholic formative and educational institutions requires further investigation. The bishops’ conference and the KNR prefer a broad, external and independent investigation. Such a complex investigation must be done carefully. Under the guidance of drs. W. J. Deetman, the required expertise will be collected in the near future, a plan of investigation will be established and a timeline will be laid out.

To assure optimal cooperation with the investigation, the bishop’s conference has Msgr. Dr. G. de Korte, bishop of Groningen-Leeuwarden, to be referent and spokesman. From the KNR, secretary general prof. dr. mr. P. Chatelion Counet will take that role upon himself.

The bishops point out that Hulp & Recht remains the address for all reports.  (Postbus 13277, 3507 LG Utrecht, beleidsmedewerker@hulpenrecht.nl). Here a careful investigation of individual reports will take place. For more information on Hulp & Recht, see www.hulpenrecht.nl.

Professor Chatelion Counet, Bishop Punt, Bishop de Korte and Bishop Wiertz at the press conference

Bishop van Luyn about abuse in the Church

There has been some significant reporting in the media about the abuse cases that have been revealed to have taken place in a boarding school run by the Salesians of Don Bosco in the 1960s and 1970s. I have refrained from reporting on it until now, in part because I’m waiting for the letter that Pope Benedict has written to the faithful of Ireland. It is rumoured that, following the abuse cases in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, that letter will be aimed at faithful everywhere, and not just to those in Ireland. A publication is expected sometime this week. 

Bishop van Luyn

 

Yesterday, Bishop Ad van Luyn of Rotterdam, chairman of the Dutch bishops’ conference, has spoken about the case on TV. The bishops’ conference is meeting about this topic tomorrow, so the statement from Msgr. van Luyn are nothing more than his own opinion. 

He said, among other things: “It is the duty of the Church to condemn this abuse clearly and forever, and also to offer apologies and to take any steps to assure prevention in the future.” 

“Personally, I am convinced that an independent investigation would best meet the justified expectations of the victims, society and also the church community.” 

To the victims he said: “I think that, in the first place, the victims should meet with those now responsible for those institutions where these things happened. A meeting that is both honest and transparent, that leads to recognition of the facts, that leads to apologies for the suffering afflicted, and that leads to compensation where possible.” 

From Rome, Cardinal Kasper has spoken especially forcefully against child abuse by clerics. he called it “criminal, shameful and unacceptable,” and indicated that the pope will be acting decisively, as he did towards the case in Ireland, where several bishops were called to step down because of their silence.