Vatican Clerical Sex Abuse Summit Kicks Off With Tears and Promises

The Vatican’s long-awaited crisis summit opened with Pope Francis likening clerical sex abuse to a “plague” and promising action. “The Holy People of God are watching us and wait for more than simple condemnations, they expect concrete and effective measures. We need concreteness,” Francis said. Some 190 leaders of the world’s congregations of bishops, along with a dozen nuns, several monks and other religious men, heard heart-breaking testimony from abuse survivors in multiple languages, including one victim who spoke of flashbacks after being abused more than 100 times. Francis wrote 21 talking points he wanted church leaders to concentrate on during the four-day summit. One dealt with recognizing the legal age of marriage, or age of consent, as 16 under Canon Law for both boys and girls—which implies the church wants to distinguish between what is considered abuse and what might be considered consensual.

In a press conference, summit organizers were asked if celibacy and homosexuality were on the agenda. Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, who is a former Vatican prosecutor on sex-abuse crimes, said that because the church did not subscribe to the notion that celibacy was a factor in clerical sex abuse, it was not on the agenda. On whether homosexuality is a factor in clerical sex abuse, he said he did not think so. He added that it was not appropriate to consider a whole category like homosexuals or heterosexuals.

—Barbie Latza Nadeau