Church Cannot Fix What It Does Not Recognize, Cardinal Says On Abuse


By Carol Glatz, Catholic Information Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Collecting information and statistics on child sexual abuse is an important tool to assess established responses and to develop recommendations aimed at fixing a failing system, said U.S. Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Assembly. Commission for the Protection of Minors.

“We can’t fix what we don’t recognize. We cannot restore broken trust if we do not address the heart of the matter. It requires honest inquiry, independent inquiry and informed action, ”the cardinal said in a written message.

The message, published on November 18, was sent to a conference marking the European Day for the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, which takes place every November 18 and is promoted by the Council of Europe. The November 18 conference in Rome was sponsored by the “Telefono Azzurro” helpline in Italy, whose founder and chairman is Ernesto Caffo, Italian professor of child and adolescent psychiatry and member of the committee. papal.

For the majority – 70% to 85% – of known cases, sexual exploitation and abuse of children is perpetrated by someone the child knows, that is to say someone “in his or her own circle. trust, ”said the council, which promotes human rights through international conventions.

And, “in 90% of cases, acts of sexual violence are not reported to the police,” he said on his website,

The theme of the celebration in 2021 focused on “Making the Circle of Trust Really Safe for Children”.

The World Health Organization estimates that one in five women and one in 13 men are sexually abused before their 18th birthday and that at least 60% of child victims / survivors of sexual abuse never disclose their abuse , Cardinal O’Malley said in his post.

“The most recent data we have received on the extent of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is no less grim,” he said, citing the recent findings of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse. in the Catholic Church in France. This report indicates that approximately 216,000 children have been abused by priests since 1950, and more than 100,000 others have been abused by lay employees of religious institutions.

“In Australia, 40% of child sexual abuse that took place during the period under review by the Royal Commission took place in an area related to the Catholic Church,” the cardinal added.

“These are amazing statistics. But we cannot allow our reaction to them to obscure their objective: to assess the measures taken by the church to deal with this scourge and to make any recommendations useful for the transformation of a failing system on the basis of a quantitative and qualitative analysis. He wrote.

The church must be open to learning from civil society and academia “in terms of scientific research models for a more informed approach to our prevention strategies and protection policies, on the ground and online” , did he declare.

The church must also work with victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, he said, saying the commission and Pope Francis believe these men and women “hold the key to helping us put implementing meaningful and effective policies and procedures ”.

November 18 also marked the Catholic Church on the first National Day of Prayer for Victims and Survivors in Italy. Responding to a proposal from the commission based on a survivor’s request, Pope Francis asked in 2016 that every episcopal conference around the world choose an appropriate day to hold a “day of prayer” for victims / survivors of abuse. sexual.

Pope Francis underlined the new national holiday during his general audience on November 17, saying he hoped the initiative would be “an opportunity for reflection, awareness and prayer to support the paths of human and spiritual recovery for the victims. “.

He also underlined the importance and “the inescapable duty of those who have educational responsibilities in the family, the parish, the school, in the recreational and sporting environments, to protect and respect the adolescents and young people who are theirs. entrusted, “because most abuse occurs. in these places.

Cardinal O’Malley also mentioned that, “in solidarity with the initiative of the Holy Father,” he would “walk in silent communion of prayer with adult survivors of child sexual abuse, their advocates, brother bishops, religious leaders of many denominations and representatives of civil society ”on November 18 in Baltimore, on the sidelines of the fall assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Sunrise Walk is led by Global Collaborative, a survivor-led network calling on the international community to establish an annual day of celebration for the prevention, healing and justice of child sexual exploitation and abuse.

The cardinal said the various marches held across the United States on Nov. 18 were aimed at raising awareness of the “role religious leaders can play in protecting children and advocating for the healing of survivors and families.” .


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