The Vatican summit is over, what’s next?

The question often comes from representatives of survivors’ organisations who were very active during the summit. At its conclusion, many expressed disappointment at the apparent lack of the “concrete measures” that Pope Francis called for in his opening talk but did not deliver in his closing address.

Mar 07, 2019

By Gerard O’Connell
The recent Vatican summit on the protection of minors ended on Feb 24. Since then many have asked, “What’s next?”

The question often comes from representatives of survivors’ organisations who were very active during the summit. At its conclusion, many expressed disappointment at the apparent lack of the “concrete measures” that Pope Francis called for in his opening talk but did not deliver in his closing address. They felt “let down.”

But the majority of bishops and religious superiors came away with a very different read on the summit and the Pope’s closing talk. Several told me “a significant shift” in thinking had taken place within the meeting that augured well for their collective response to the grave abuse crisis that is eroding the Church’s credibility and undermining its mission throughout the world.


Archbishop Charles Scicluna put it this way: “We could see people maturing in their reactions as the days went by.... They were an intense three days, but the experiences of prayer, the listening to victims, the inputs we had were emotionally charged, so there was not only information but also an appeal to our emotional intelligence.”

The summit “spoke to the heart of people,” Archbishop Scicluna said. “I think that is where true transformation happens and where the motivation to do the right thing is born and develops.”

Pope Francis called the meeting precisely for this purpose — to bring about a change of hearts, a conversion, a cultural change among bishops and religious superiors worldwide because he knows that without such a change all the papal decrees and changes in Vatican law are unlikely to achieve the desired goal of defeating sexual abuse inside the church.

The summit focused on three aspects that are central to the role of bishops and religious superiors in addressing this crisis: responsibility, accountability and transparency. It also looked at the need for a collegial and synodal response at both the local and Universal Church levels to the abuse of minors.

The presidents of the bishops’ conferences and the religious superiors returned to their respective communities with some clear ideas to communicate to their fellow bishops or religious superiors.

First, they must recognise that this is a universal and serious crisis that is destroying the Church’s credibility and must be addressed in every country. Church leaders must address it in a collegial way, as Cardinal Oswald Gracias told summit participants during his keynote address; this means bishops must work together and with Rome in addressing cases of abuse and setting safeguarding standards. They must also address the crisis in a synodal way, involving lay men and women as well as members of religious orders, as Cardinal Blase Cupich explained in his keynote talk.

Second, bishops and religious superiors must listen to victims, take their allegations seriously and deal with them in a proper and timely way.

Third, there must be no cover-up of any abuser, whether bishop, priest or religious.

Fourth, they have to be transparent in their response to victims and the allegations and keep victim-survivors informed about what is happening in church investigations of their reports.

Finally, they must seek to provide all the necessary assistance, including medical and other care, that the victims of abuse may require.-- America Magazine

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