Catholic leaders said lay people could be key to success of efforts to end abuse

VATICAN CITY — The close of the week is not the final day of the Summit on the Protection of Minors in the church. But it was a day filled with intensive dialogue about sex abuse and more importantly, defining a concrete plan of action. And it was a day of firsts as a woman addressed the bishops to talk about working together.

Friday morning, as Rome awakened, there was a message from the street artist known as Maupal. Locals passing by wondered what it was about. Just blocks away, as bishops gathered at a meeting called by Pope Francis, they wondered, can this summit rescue a church in crisis.

“A Bishop cannot think that matters concerning the Church can be resolved by him acting alone or exclusively among peers,” Pontifical Gregorian University Professor Linda Ghisoni said.

Working together within the church and outside it is the only way to prevent abuse, highlight abusers and call those who have covered up crimes to task. And church leaders said lay people may be the key to the success of their efforts.

“It's not just calling in lay people to help fix a mess or have them bail us out, it's inviting lay people into life in church, how we teach, how we govern,” Cardinal Blase Cupich said.

“Cardinal Cupich's address today I think presented some very concrete ideas that involves lay people and restores confidence, gives people a way to report negligence or malfeasance of the bishop,” Cardinal Sean O'Malley said.

And that means revealing past abusers and having a clear plan to report current abuse allegations.

“We're confident that we have given all the names to the state of people who have been accused whether we found it substantiated or not,” Cupich said.

“I think that bishops are being forced to a greater degree of transparency. So here we have a robust system of checks and balances especially when victims have access to civil and criminal recourse,” Anne Barrett Doyle with said.  “You see that the secular criminal and civil justice system can do a very good job of getting, cleaning up the church and getting rid of bad priests and bad bishops for that matter.”

Cupich offered a 12-step program he says is filled with radical change. Much to the dismay of victim survivors, the bigger church plan does not include mandatory reporting across the globe. Cultural and law enforcement nuances prevent that. But in the U.S., specifically Chicago, Cupich does plan a canon and civil collaboration.

“It all begins with a third party, independent reporting system, it could be a hotline or a dedicated website where people would be able to make an accusation against a bishop who misbehaves or if there is serious grave mishandling of a case,” Cupich said. “We need to realize that we need to get this right, for our church, for our people, but also for all children in the world.”

Survivor advocates are holding a “March to Zero” Sunday. Zero tolerance. Zero cover up they say equals truth and justice.  WGN News will be there to cover it.

WGN’s Dina Bair will be covering the meeting at the Vatican and have updates.

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