CNS photo/Paul Haring
By Drew Dillingham
Catholic News Service
(Third in a series)
ROME — When Pope Francis came to the United States in September 2015, many people followed his trip with excitement. Much attention was paid to the Holy Father’s visit to the White House and Capitol Hill and to what His Holiness would say to our president and congressional leaders.
But one of the less visible parts of the pope’s trip was his meeting with victims of sexual abuse at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. During that meeting, Pope Francis apologized for the abuse that many had suffered, for the times when those abused were not heard or believed, and for the times some bishops failed in their responsibility to protect children. He also made a promise to support the continued healing of those abused.
Pope Francis meeting church leaders at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa., Sept. 27, 2015. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts)
This week at the Pontifical Gregorian University, my class learned how to play our own small part in fulfilling that ongoing promise. First and foremost, it is important to listen to victims or those who have been abused. Listening to the needs of someone who has been abused opens the door to dialogue and support that can begin the healing process. I would also like to note that in some cases, it is better to use the words “those who have been abused” rather than “victim” or “survivor” to reflect an individual’s wish to not be defined by their abuse, especially if they have worked to finally overcome the suffering they experienced.
Another crucial part of the healing process for those who have been abused is bringing an offender to justice. Although in some countries there is not a legal obligation under civil law to report abuse to law enforcement, representatives of the church always have a moral obligation to do so. In the United States, in accordance with civil law, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People requires dioceses to report to public authorities an allegation made by a person who is a minor. Dioceses are also to cooperate with public authorities even when the person is no longer a minor. When it comes to abuse, the church has a zero-tolerance policy, meaning priests who abuse are to be removed from ministry. These requirements are found (Read More)