Letter from Rome

Why Catholic Church leaders risk failing on the issue of sexual abuse
Letter from Rome

Pope Francis attends a Eucharistic celebration at the Regia Hall of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Feb. 24, within the fourth and last day of a global child protection summit for reflections on the sex abuse crisis within the Catholic Church. (Photo by Giuseppe Lami/AFP)

Organizers of the recent Vatican "summit" on the protection of minors, and a number of the bishops who attended it, are trying to assure the world that the four-day meeting brought about a "change of heart" in the Church's leaders, especially those who — up to now — have underestimated the clergy sex abuse crisis.

In fact, before the Feb. 21-24 meeting even got started its chief planners indicated that a main goal would be to convince all the bishops in the world that the abuse of minors was not just a "Western" problem.

When it was all done and over, one those organizers, Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, said the highly-publicized event marked a "quantitative and qualitative leap" in the global Church's response to abuse. He called it an important new step on the slow and painful journey of "turning things around.

A bishop from the Pacific Islands likened it to "a wake-up call."

You will have to forgive those who have not been sleeping the past three or more decades — particularly abuse survivors — for their skepticism.

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At the Vatican summit a number of statements of intent were made and many important words were spoken.

They've all been said before. And it was hard to detect much if anything that was new.

Even Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge, who was the homilist at the gathering's final Mass, admitted: "The time for words is past; now is the time for action.”

So, what can one say about the Vatican summit? 

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