The Sexual Abuse Summit

The Pope has declared a summit to look into the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church and to start on this long process of fixing it.

March 6, 2019

Recently Pope Francis has made headlines again, this time for a public acknowledgment of sexual abuse in the church. He said that the church was aware of the problem and working on it, but that it’s a process. Many are elated that the abuse is finally being publicized, but others are angry that it has taken this long and are upset about the lack of action from the Church.

Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has long been an issue. Past research done on the issue shows that this epidemic is large and widespread, although nothing is concrete. While there are some continuous studies being done on abuse in the Catholic church it is hard to find a general all-around number of priests involved in sexual abuse. Some reports, like the John Jay report (a 2004 report on the sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice) and The Australian Royal Commission (A royal commission is a major ad-hoc formal public inquiry into a defined issue), disagree on percentages. The only true agreement here is that it is an issue that needs action.

Pope Francis has decided to take action with a summit in Rome to address and solve these abuse issues in the church. The conference included almost 200 global church leaders. The schedule for the conference includes “two speeches from Pope Francis, small group discussions of bishops and a penitential ceremony involving abuse survivors” according to a recent CNN report. The participants of this conference have watched video testimonies of sexual abuse from clergy members as part of the summit. One woman, in particular, told of being abused by a priest starting at the age of 15. Another testimony, from a priest, claimed abuse at the hand of another priest when he was a teenager. When he reported the abuse to a bishop he was attacked. Another shares that the church would cover-up things for his abusers.

While aimed to help, some think this conference will just bring up more controversies like gay priesthood, violations of celibacy (not in the face of abuse), and protection of children of the ordained.

This summit is a crucial moment for the ever scandalized Catholic Church. Many people have denounced the church in the wake of all of these allegations, and more continue to turn against what they once loved. With testimonies from survivors of all ages and genders, with nuns speaking out, and with the Pope finally recognizing this issue, and hopefully, on his way to make more concrete solutions, this conference is a turning point for sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church and its members.

Hopefully, this conference will also alert people locally that this issue is closer to home than we would like to think. Just in Iowa alone within the last 24 hours, it has been reported that 28 Catholic priests have just been accused of sexual abuse, specifically against minors. While that is frightening enough, this problem comes even closer. The Omaha diocese, a district under the pastoral care of a bishop in the Christian Church, had 40 members with claims of sexual abuse against them as of last October. This summit will ideally encourage people to look at the allegations of those locally and take action to fix this epidemic.

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