News

Pope taps experts, US cardinal to help prep for abuse summit

Pope Francis tries a cap he was offered as he leaves at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Nov. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis named the Vatican’s top sex abuse investigator and a close U.S. ally to an organizing committee for a February abuse prevention summit whose stakes have grown after the Holy See blocked U.S. bishops from taking action to address the scandal.

Abuse survivors and women working at the Vatican will also contribute to the preparatory committee. Notably absent from the lineup announced Friday (Nov. 23) was Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who heads the pope’s sex abuse advisory commission, though one of his members, the Rev. Hans Zollner, is the point person for the group.

In addition to Zollner, the committee includes Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, for a decade the Vatican’s sex crimes prosecutor; Francis appointee Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich; and Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, a member of Francis’ key cardinal adviser group.

Francis summoned leaders of the world’s bishops’ conferences to the Vatican Feb. 21-24 after the abuse scandal erupted in his native South America and again in the U.S. and he botched the case of a Chilean bishop implicated in cover-up.

The stakes of the meeting grew exponentially after the Vatican told U.S. bishops earlier this month not to vote on proposed new measures to investigate sexual misconduct or cover-up within their ranks.

The Vatican still hasn’t explained why it blocked the vote on a U.S. code of conduct for bishops and a lay-led board to investigate them, though the proposals were only given to the Vatican at the last minute and were said to contain legal problems. The head of the U.S. bishops conference, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, said the Holy See wanted to delay any vote until after the February global summit.

However, it is unlikely that such a diverse group of churchmen, some representing national churches that continue to deny or downplay the scandal, will over the course of four days come up with any universal proposals that come close to the accountability norms that U.S. bishops were seeking.

Cupich has said he was disappointed by the Vatican’s decision, but at the time of the U.S. bishops’ meeting, he proposed they go ahead and debate the measures and even came up with a revised proposal himself.

His inclusion as a member of the Vatican organizing committee is significant, since he is not himself the head of a bishops’ conference — as are Scicluna and Gracias — and would otherwise have no reason to attend the February summit. That Francis chose him over DiNardo is perhaps understood by the obvious tensions between DiNardo and the Vatican over the rejected U.S. accountability proposals and DiNardo’s public call this summer for a Vatican investigation into the U.S. scandal, which Rome refused.

Cupich, on the other hand, is far more of a defender of the embattled pope, whose popularity in the U.S. has tumbled over his uneven handling of the abuse crisis.

“Pope Francis is calling for radical reform in the life of the church, for he understands that this crisis is about the abuse of power and a culture of protection and privilege, which have created a climate of secrecy, without accountability for misdeeds,” Cupich wrote in a blog post Thursday. “All of that has to end.”

Zollner, who heads a safeguarding institute of study at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, acknowledged that the expectations were high going into the meeting.

“And it’s understandable that they are high, given the gravity of the scandal that has shocked and hurt so many people, believers and not, in so many countries,” he told Vatican Media.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said Francis’ decision to host the meeting showed he considered protection of minors a “fundamental priority for the church.”

About the author

Nicole Winfield

24 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • Interesting. Not one actual expert on the subject of sexual abuse of children, but more churchmen. I wonder why the pope isn’t asking for help from someone like Dr. Nicholas groth, one of the foremost experts in the world on the subject. There are many others.

  • “Notably absent from the lineup announced Friday was Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who heads the pope’s sex abuse advisory commission.

    This is not surprising. When Francis in his wisdom and humility called the Chile abuse survivors liars, O’Malley gave vigorous public pushback. O’Malley has probably now replaced Burke at the top of Francis’ enemies list (only after much reflection and discernment, of course).

  • “Not one actual expert on the subject of sexual abuse of children, but more churchmen.”

    This actually makes sense. The churchmen’s primary area of expertise is personal and institutional self-preservation, which is also the primary goal of the February meeting.

  • Odd, then, how the article names a number experts and alludes to unnamed experts, including survivors.

    Nicholas Aloysius Groth will be 81 in December, has retired to the Orlando, Florida,
    area and no longer takes on consults or engages in practice.

    I am sure if the Holy Father knew you were interested in opining, he would have waited for your opinion.

    Send your recommendations on in writing and let us know if you get a response.

  • Delighted to see Card. Cupich on the organizing committee but sorry to see that O’Malley is not on it. Scicluna has had a lot of experience dealing with investigations and he sits on the CDF. That CDF position is important because I think there is change that has to occur in the way power is overly centralized in the Vatican and the lack of a power structure between the Vatican and the individual bishop. And that is to say nothing about how some canons of the church have promoted and reinforced the culture of clericalism and secrecy that are important in enabling priests to abuse and convinced bishops they should cover it up.

    The actual meeting in February will include bishops from everywhere, Lots of vaticanistas from different dicasteries, representatives from Oriental churches, a representative from every Bishops Conference. Notice this in particular: There will be one or several representatives from the international organizations of vowed religious men and women. This is important because no one seems to be able to get religious orders to deal in a consistent way with the pedos in their own ranks and the superiors of orders who cover up for priests, brothers, sisters who abuse others. Bishops disclaim responsibility even tho no brother or sister can operate in their diocese without the bishops permission.

    There will be some survivors there. Not present will be mothers and fathers of children, nor their sisters, aunts, cousins, friends. The family itself as an institution is not represented by those whose vocation is to the family or single life outside of vowed religious life – which is, of course, 95% of Catholicism. Oh, well. We also serve who only stand and wait. But how much are we expected to take?

  • Well, then, Bob Arnzen/Mark Connelly/Jose Carioca/Draco/DR, permit me to testify on Dr. Groth’s behalf. Perhaps you will gratefully mail this to the Pope Yourself.

    Cameron misrepresents my findings and distorts them to advance his homophobic views. I make a very clear distinction in my writing between pedophilia and homosexuality, noting that adult males who sexually victimize young boys are either pedophilic or heterosexual, and that in my research I have not found homosexual men turning away from adult partners to children . . . I consider this totally unprofessional behavior on the part of Dr. Cameron and I want to bring this to your attention. He disgraces his profession.” – Dr. A. Nicholas Groth in letter written to the Nebraska Board of Examiners of
    Psychologists on August 21, 1984

    http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2010/12/14/religious-right-leader-admits-to-using-bad-research-to-demonize-gay-community-sees-nothing-wrong-with-it/

    AND…

    “Reflectin­g the results of these and other studies, the mainstream view among researcher­s and profession­als who work in the area of child sexual abuse is that homosexual and bisexual men do not pose any special threat to children. For
    example, in one review of the scientific literature­, noted authority Dr. A. Nicholas Groth wrote:

    Are homosexual adults in general sexually attracted to children and are preadolesc­ent children at greater risk of molestatio­n from homosexual adults than from heterosexu­al adults? There is no reason to believe so. The research to date all points to there being no significan­t relationsh­ip between a homosexual lifestyle and child molestatio­n.
    There appears to be practicall­y no reportage of sexual molestatio­n of girls by lesbian adults, and the adult male who sexually molests young boys is not likely to be homosexual (Groth & Gary, 1982, p. 147).”

    ——————————

    Back to me. It seems that actual experts, like Dr. Groth or the original John Jay experts, before THE CHURCHMEN got into the conversation, and unlike self appointed experts like Aquinas, floydlee, and Bob Arnzen/Mark Connelly/Jose Carioca/Draco/DR, think that maybe the problem in the Catholic Church is not actually blamable on gay men in general…
    as much as you wish to do so.

  • Write the Holy Father, not me.

    Quoting 32-year-old opinions based on a partial of select research on quite different subjects in quite different circumstances doesn’t add anything.

  • I would like to be surprised by an unsparing policy coming out of the February council, but I think it will more likely be a grudging, incremental expansion of the policies which have, over decades, failed.

    We’ll see.

  • Of course since you don’t stand and wait, and have not stopped kvetching since the first post you made that I read, I assume “how much are we expected to take?” is rhetorical.

  • Oh, after decades of worldwide abuse and coverups, “kvetching” seems hardly out of place. Except as a too-quiet response to further delay.

  • Why? Are you denying that you are/were these other personalities? Clearly, there would be no need for Ben’s comment to be flagged if that were true.

  • I’d ask him to swear on Jesus that he isn’t, but I’ve already been informed by some Christians that Christians don’t do that sort of thing. You just have to take theirword for it. Anything more than that, and it’s a temptation to sin…

    Conveniently.

    I am glad, however, that he flagged my post. Maybe RNS will actually look into this use of several names.

  • Unless you are:

    – a victim and

    – a Catholic

    your interest is primarily that of a garden variety anti-Catholic.

  • They should be seeking the help of child psychologists and criminal prosecutors from Britain, Ireland, Canada, Germany, Brazil, Australia, Italy, USA, Latin America, France, etc.

ADVERTISEMENTs