Pope's speech, “task forces” and legal reforms

Pope's speech, 'task forces' and legal reforms

The four-day anti-abuse summit convened by the pope drew some criticism, but also recognition. The church will have to continue to deliver – and not only the "people of God" are watching closely.

Everyone had been waiting in suspense for the Pope's final speech. At the end of the four-day consultations of 190 bishops, religious superiors and heads of curia from all over the world, there should be something concrete. And then many were disappointed. At the beginning of this unprecedented church conference, Francis himself had said: "The holy people of God (…) expects not only simple condemnations, but concrete and effective measures!"

No new laws

That the pope named eight points in Sunday's speech that would be worked on further was not enough for many. Many had expected new laws, current case numbers or names of perpetrators. Whether the criticism would have been milder had Francis mentioned in his speech the steps announced three hours later in a press conference is open to question. Space would have been.

The pope once again wanted to paint the big picture in which he sees the church and its abuse scandal. His references that this is a problem for society as a whole, that violence against children is not just sexual, were also reflected in the conversations during the summit. That the reference to the larger context in no way diminishes the guilt and the failure of the church, he also said clearly. There were also confessions of guilt, most recently the night before at the penitential service in the albeit inappropriate setting of the "Sala Regia" of the Apostolic Palace.

The motu proprio of the Pope "for the protection of minors and persons in need of protection", which was pulled out of the hat by the moderator of the meeting, Father Federico Lombardi, in front of the press on Sunday at noon, sounds impressive. But it probably only includes those guidelines on child protection that the bishops' conferences were supposed to draw up back in 2011 and update since then. This time they apply to the Vatican City State. The does not do much youth work, but has among other things a small seminary and the choir of the Sixtina. The draft of this motu proprio is said to have been ready for almost two years, so it is not a result of the summit.

When will the vademecum be published??

It is unclear when the vademecum that was also announced will arrive. Some think within a few days, others doubt that the interception has already begun. That it is necessary, no one doubts. What good are the best laws and regulations, warn experts like Hans Zollner and Charles Scicluna, if church leaders who are not lawyers don't know how to apply them.

The concept for the task forces, which the director of the Child Protection Center at the Gregorian University, Hans Zollner, had already brought into play before the summit, is in place, he told the Catholic News Agency. There are also people, what is missing is the central coordination in the Vatican. Which, it must be amed, must have sufficient authority, if the teams of experts on education and prevention are not only gladly accepted help, but also skillful tutoring.

Criminal law reform of canon law has been underway for ten years. The abuse scandal gives it increasing urgency. It also becomes clear why bishops used to react so hesitantly or not at all when cases of abuse became known. In the post-conciliar 1970s and 1980s, drastic punishments were considered unwelcome in the church; rather, pastoral care and psychology were relied on – as they were outside the church as well.

Regarding the lists of names of accused or convicted persons repeatedly demanded by victims, the legal situation on the part of the state alone is completely different – for example, between the U.S. and Europe or Australia. Leaving aside the danger of possible lynch law in countries elsewhere. Those responsible at the press conferences last week did not want to talk about individual cases; investigations were underway.

Construction sites remain

The punishment of the offenses of bishops who have not reacted to suspicions of abuse or have even covered up cases remains a major construction site. Implementing regulations are still lacking for the decree published in 2016 called "Like a Loving Mother," which allows bishops to be removed for such misconduct.

It is unclear whether there are internal rules of procedure or coordination between the four dicasteries concerned (bishops, religious, mission and Eastern Churches). The "loving mother" church is reluctant to reproach its highest-ranking sons for their transgressions.

It is not so much unwillingness as probably unprofessionalism that lies behind some hesitation in the Vatican. Francis is a pastor, less structured organizer. His will to fight against abuse does not diminish, rather the implementation. On Monday morning, the heads of the curia consulted with the organizers of the summit. They want to deliver, promises – succinctly summarized – Vatican spokesman Gisotti on Monday afternoon. The starting point of all measures is to listen to the victims. More lay people should be involved and training and prevention should be improved everywhere.

About everything will be informed clearly and in detail. "The holy people of God" will look closely.

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