Sex abuse summit: turning point or fiasco?
At the end of the four-day summit in the Vatican Pope Francis demanded an end to cover-ups and harshly condemned the sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy. Victim associations are voicing disappointment with the results of the meeting of almost 200 clergymen. A look at the commentary columns shows how divided opinions are on the historical summit.
Only half-way there
Pravda is not happy with the results of the bishops' meeting:
“The pope found hard words and called priests who sexually abuse children instruments of Satan. But the victims expect more: concrete and effective measures. The pope put forward 21 proposals for the fight against such crimes, but they don't go very far. Bishops from Germany, the US and India took a far more radical stance. The majority, however, didn't want to bite the bullet. In the end the summit in the Vatican didn't accept a binding document. Finding a solution to the problem was once again postponed.”
Beyond the criticism of the abuse victims the progress that has been made shouldn't be ignored, El Mundo warns:
“When a dose of realism isn't applied to expectations, it's easy to end up being disappointed. This is what has happened to those who expected this historic summit on sexual abuse to end with far more concrete announcements than could be reasonably expected. But it would be unjust not to recognise that a fundamental step has been taken to tackle this scourge. ... The mere fact that the pope gathered together 190 religious leaders to confront the issue head-on and demand that the bishops' conferences pursue a zero-tolerance policy and pass on any evidence to the judiciary is a noteworthy step in the right direction.”
An unbridgeable gap
De Volkskrant discusses two very different ways of assessing the conference:
“For all those who learned of one abuse scandal after another in recent years, and for all the abuse victims who have demonstrated on St. Peter's Square in recent days, the results were perhaps rather meagre. For a worldwide organisation institution struggling under the weight of centuries-old dogmas, it was nothing short of a revolution. The gap between the two perspectives is unbridgeable. That is the Church's real problem.”
Francis is dragging the Church out of the mire
El Mundo sees the pope taking resolute action:
“The Church hasn't faced a crisis of this magnitude in a long time, perhaps since the times of the Reformation. ... The summit will approve concrete measures for combatting abuse such as compulsory psychological testing for priests carried out by experts or the establishment of protocols that encourage victims to report abuse and facilitate investigations. Francis was adamant yesterday in demanding an end to this 'plague' in the Church. And he has taken a step forward that can only be applauded. Now it's up to the bishops' conferences all over the world to be as combative as the pope.”
Conference can only be the start
Tagesschau.de, on the other hand, argues that if the Church is truly serious about fighting sex abuse it will have to break certain taboos:
“That includes the Church's internal power structures but also its sexual morals. Those who suppress the sexuality of priests and bishops will provoke problems. Such fundamental discussions, which lie at the root of the problem, take time. Here the conference can only set things in motion. But if the Vatican shows the will to engage in such a discussion it would send a valuable signal. The signal that the Catholic Church is serious about this - and that this conference will be the start of real changes.”
Hierarchy is the problem
It's important to recognise the structural causes of the abuse, Dnevnik also stresses:
“This is not about individual excesses but problems that are a consequence of the hierarchy and the divine status of the holy and the resulting abuse of power. ... All this within the framework of brotherly solidarity that takes more care of the perpetrators than the victims and puts pressure on victims to remain silent for the sake of the Church's reputation. The ignoring of these deep-rooted problems prevents the Catholic Church from tackling sexual abuse in the only way that is effective: namely understanding the nature of sex abuse, which entails reflection on the vow of celibacy. Moreover the procedures need to be completely transparent and cooperation with the police must be taken seriously.”
The lesson can only be "Never again"
Journalist Maria Antonietta Calabrò draws a historic parallel in Huffington Post Italia to illustrate the relevance of the Vatican conference:
“As with the Nuremberg Trials, which marked a turning point in history with the 'Never again' that the nations proclaimed after World War II, the Catholic Church must now turn a new leaf at the summit convened by Pope Francis. ... Along with its its highest representatives who have been summoned to Rome, the entire Church is now called upon to say a collective 'Never again'. Because even though global guidelines for dealing with sexual abuse by priests have been in place for decades, not a day goes by without stories about the hushing up of cases of paedophile priests and bishops emerging.”
No more half-truths from the Vatican please!
For El Périodico de Catalunya it's clear how the success of the summit will be measured:
“The extraordinary joint declaration by all the religious orders - male and female - acknowledging their sins ('We bow our heads in shame') testifies to the magnitude of the problem and the need for the Church to finally provide a firm and clear answer. The summit will be a failure if it only serves to polish the Church's image. Radicality, an admission of guilt and of course the desire to improve are what must be demanded now. Once and for all and without Vatican half-truths.”
New era in the Catholic Church?
Observador, too, hopes that the meeting will mark a turning point:
“With the orientation of this conference we all feel a little less protected. The fact that an international summit is finally taking place on this subject allows us to believe that something will now change. ... These four days will be tough and punishing, but they will mark a new beginning. ... The impunity and silence up to now couldn't possibly be maintained. ... We can only hope that after this summit the Vatican will resolve to take a hard line against abuse and show zero tolerance for abusers.”
True awareness needed
Jutarnji list outlines what concrete measures can be expected from the four-day conference:
“First of all, all the bishops and male and female orders must understand that this is a serious problem that affects the credibility of the Catholic Church and its evangelical mission. Second, the Church in Africa and Asia must be convinced that paedophilia is not a sin or a fad exclusive to the West, but is a cancer that exists everywhere in the Catholic world. And that it happens in other religions and organisations is no justification. Third, the criteria for diagnosing and eliminating the problem should be harmonised everywhere.”
Francis not the right pope for this job
Der Volkskrant puts a damper on expectations:
“Pope Francis's ideal is to lead a church that blossoms from below and not one that Rome controls with a firm hand. For that reason he has refused to impose guidelines or laws on the dioceses. He wants them to propose their own guidelines. But in that case it seems that Francis isn't the right pope for the job of solving the abuse crisis. If anything has become clear in recent decades, it's that the dioceses only act when a major scandal forces them to.”