The Abuse Synod – A Tale of Two Meetings

A Tale of Two Meetings – World Youth Day, Abuse Synod

Two World Youth Days?

There was the first tale of the recent World Youth Day. This was the one that appeared in international media focusing mainly on what was said on hot button issues of their home country.
The other tale of World Youth Day took place in the minds and hearts of the people who were present and impacted by the experience. In a clear case of under-reporting, the stories from the participants themselves focused on the impact their experience had on them. These stories spoke of life-changing impacts.

Two Abuse Synods?

Let me say something up front. As I read the media reports of the recent meeting of the world’s Bishops  I was disappointed and frustrated. However, there was part of me that has wondered whether there were two Abuse Synods.

The reporting on the one synod features all the things that did not happen at the Synod. Perhaps these could come under the heading of first reactions. In what might be the beginning of a more considered analysis, we might have second thoughts or a view of the synod from within.

A recent edition of La Croix,  a highly respected and world-leading, independent Catholic daily, provides food for thought. (See below)

What happened in the minds and hearts of the participants and why

Here are some quotes from this series of articles.

Changing mindsets and Culture

  • In an achievement that would have been impossible just a few short years ago, Pope Francis has succeeded in his efforts to develop a much greater level of awareness among the world’s bishops, many of whom who were a long way from sharing his vision.
  • The pope is convinced that processes are more important than blunt decisions. And through patience he been able to change the collective state of mind in the space of a few short days
  • The bishops’ growing awareness of their common responsibility for abuse and its management should now enable the Church to make much more orderly progress both against abuse and cover ups.

Child abuse at the Global level

Personal accounts of survivors impacted mindsets

  • Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg said, “I had to close my eyes, they were filled with tears,” adding, “it is absolutely necessary that we listen to these accounts.”
  • The President of Bishops of the European Union said that watching and listening to participants, he had witnessed a gradual evolution and improvement, thanks to the personal testimony given by survivors. “Bishops are changing. I can feel it in the way we are sharing and talking to one another,” he said.

Video statements by Bishops of the impact of victim testimonies

The Impact of Women

  • Women, though only few in number, also played a major part in what happened these last days in Rome.

There were only 9 major presentations to the entire assembly. Women gave three of them. Two of these women were mothers. One of the three represented women religious in Africa where there is a strong current of denial.

Each of these women offered serious challenges, See  also Crux Women who took star turns at Pope Francis’s recent summit

See more on each of the speakers

Significant actions to come.

In his post-meeting review Fr. Frederico Lombardi revealed some immediate actions  I expect these to have a powerful impact on turning around the ocean liner of clericalism.

  • A new Motu Proprio from the Pope “on the protection of minors and vulnerable persons”
  • A Vademecum to help bishops around the world clearly understand their duties and tasks
  • Creation of task forces of competent persons to help episcopal conferences and dioceses that find it difficult to confront the problems and produce initiatives for the protection of minors

My unofficial translation of the above

  • A motu proprio is usually when the pope wants to change or enact church rules
  • A vademecum is a guideook for getting things done.
  • Task forces presumably will aid in getting things done. (This process began on Monday, February 25!)

La Croix (subscription required)

In our continuing coverage of this historic event, La Croix‘s Rome correspondent Nicholas Senèze offers his analysis of the “abuse summit” and why it marks a monumental shift for the Church.

In another article, we explain how the four-day gathering inside the Synod Hall at the Vatican changed the hearts and minds of some of the more reticent bishops.

One of the major reasons for that was the testimony offered by abuse victims, both inside the hall and on the sidelines of the summit.

Another was the prophetic and powerful voice of women who, though only few in number, also played a major part in what happened these last days in Rome. We have reports on those aspects as well.

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words

A woman administers ashes on the forehead of Father Brad Zamora during a prayer service for repentance and healing for clergy sexual abuse which included prayers for victims, abusers and the church, Aug. 22 at Our Lady of the Brook in Northbrook, Ill. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Chicago Catholic)

Truly, no other words are necessary!

Source: (Subscription Required)


The Lincoln Option as a Response to the Abuse Crisis

In Bishop Barron’s “cry from the heart” over the clerical sexual abuse and cover-up crisis he draws a lesson from Lincoln. In the Gettysburg address, he called everyone to build rather than abandon community. Bishop Barron calls each of us to exercise our prophetic charism. We are not fighting for an institution but for the community Christ.

Some of his phrases… This is the moment to be fighting for the church we believe in… fighting to set things right, fight any way you can… because we believe in Jesus Christ… every baptized Catholic is called to be a prophet… raise your voice, don’t cut and run… we are not fighting to save an institution… we are fighting for the victims…

I am reminded of the words of a contemporary mystic, Br. David Steindl-Rast

The question is: Do we have the grace and the strength and the courage to take  on our prophetic task? You see, the mystic is also the prophet. And the prophetic stance is a double one. It demands a double courage, the courage to speak out  and the courage to stay in. It takes a good deal of courage to speak out, not necessarily with words. Often a silent witness is much more of a witness. By word or by silence,, the prophet speaks out. It is difficult enough to speak out and then to get out as quickly as you can, to say your thing and run. But the second half of the prophetic stance is to stay in, stay in the community against which you have to speak out. But it will not do to stay in and to blend with the woodwork, to stay in and lie low. That is not prophetic either. The most difficult thing is demanded from us: to stay in and to speak out. Nothing less will do.
To stay in would be easy if we could disappear. To speak out would be easy if we could get out. But then you would no longer be a prophet, you would merely be an outside critic; that has happened to many tired prophets. They have become outside critics. As long as they were prophets within, they had leverage; they were able to change things. Now, on the outside, they say the same things, but it does not phase anybody anymore. But to stay in and speak out means crucifixion. The staying in is symbolized by this cross because you stay in; you can not go anywhere else. It is rammed into the ground, and it is the vertical post of the cross. The horizontal post symbolizes the speaking out. It happens to fit in the Christian tradition very nicely. But the cross of the prophet is there in every tradition.