“Not an easy journey for the pope”

First another abuse scandal comes to light in the USA, then the Pope finds very clear words on the subject and on the weekend he will travel to the World Meeting of Families in Ireland. What role does the topic of abuse play in Dublin?

Interviewer: A huge abuse scandal in the church in the USA has just come to light. So how does that impact the Dublin meeting?

Jan Hendrik Stens (Liturgy Editor): Child protection and abuse prevention were already planned topics before the abuse scandal came to light. For example, a seminar on abuse prevention was planned with Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley. However, Cardinal O'Malley has now canceled his participation because he is having lewd events in his seminary investigated.

And the Archbishop of Washington, Donald Cardinal Wuerl, who has been subjected to massive criticism, has also canceled his attendance. He was to have given a talk titled "The well-being of the family is critical to the future of the world". So you can see that the abuse scandal in the U.S. has had an impact on the meeting in terms of personnel alone. From Pope Francis, who will fly to Dublin on Saturday and Sunday, some expect clear words.

Interviewer: But even Ireland is no longer an easy terrain for the Catholic Church..

Stens: Certainly not. In Ireland, too, cases of abuse have come to light in recent years that have severely shaken trust in the Church. After all, that also had consequences for political and legal decisions. We recall that in May, two-thirds of Irish people voted to change the previously very strict ban on abortion. The Irish prime minister announced that he would remind the pope that many of his countrymen today think differently about homosexuality, family forms and abortion than Church teaching does. So it will not be an easy journey for Francis.

Interviewer: What will Francis say about the family??

Stens: By and large, it will probably be what is in "Amoris laetitia". Whether Francis is addressing the controversially debated points about "remarried divorcees" or same-sex partnerships, which cannot be seen as analogous to marriage (cf. Amoris laetitia 251), will address, I tend not to believe. On the other hand, I would not rule out the possibility that he will once again refer to the various abuse scandals.

However, yes, a four-page letter from him was published yesterday asking forgiveness for the Church's failure to deal with abuse of children and others in need of protection. There may be a meeting of the pope with abuse victims in Dublin, which some are expecting.

Interviewer: The motto of the World Meeting of Families is "The Gospel of the Family – Joy for the World." What does it mean?

Stens: The motto is based on the doctrinal letter "Amoris laetitia – On Love in the Family," which Pope Francis published after the Synod on the Family three years ago and about which there is still lively discussion today. It was Pope Francis' wish that this letter form the basis for the World Meeting of Families. In catecheses, lectures and discussions, the following will be discussed in more detail.

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