Last week here on the blog, in a secondary item, I mentioned that Pope Francis had promulgated new rules that are designed to deal more openly and forthrightly with the sexual abuse scandal in the church. And I suggested that it looked like a good move but maybe we should wait a bit to see the reaction to it from across the church.
Here, in fact, is what the Religion News Service has just reported about what the new rules mean.
Part of that RNS piece says this:
"The new protocol will transform legal proceedings and the lives of abuse victims, those accused of abusing them and bishops in charge of exercising oversight.
“'This is a tremendous step forward in transparency and the right of victims’ participation' in canonical trials and 'also the rights of the accused,' Dutch canon lawyer Myriam Wijlens told Religion News Service in a phone interview Wednesday.
“'There are only winners in this; there are no losers,' she added."
I hope she's right. But at the same time we have to factor in this new reporting from the Associated Press about how overwhelmed the Vatican office charged with dealing with the scandal is feeling.
"Nearly two decades after the Vatican assumed responsibility for reviewing all cases of abuse, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) is today overwhelmed, struggling with a skeleton staff that hasn’t grown at pace to meet the four-fold increase in the number of cases arriving in 2019 compared to a decade ago," the AP reported.
As I've noted several times recently, the AP is doing some of the best reporting on this scandal. And the piece to which I've just linked you notes that Monsignor John Kennedy, head of the congregation’s discipline section, which processes the cases, "spoke to The Associated Press and allowed an AP photographer and video journalists into the CDF’s inner chambers -- the first time in the tribunal’s history that visual news media have been given access. Even the Vatican’s most secretive institution now feels the need to show some transparency as the church hierarchy seeks to rebuild trust with rank-and-file Catholics who have grown disillusioned with decades of clergy abuse and cover-up."
This kind of transparency has been needed for a long time, and it's reassuring to find that it's happening increasingly under this pope. None of this, of course, removes any of the crimes or the trauma caused by those crimes. But without it things would simply continue to get worse. And that's true not just in the Catholic crisis but in other faith communities as well, where abuse also has been a major problem.
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AND NOW A WORD FROM BETHLEHEM
For Christmas, Religion News Service did this audio interview with a Greek Orthodox priest at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. It will give you a pretty good sense of how things are there in what is traditionally said to have been the birth place of Jesus.