ROME – As the first day of the Vatican summit on preventing abuse drew to a close, bishops said the summit is not just for talking about church sex abuse, it’s about listening and is a journey of exploration.
This scandal is three decades old and affects 1.3 billion Catholics.
190 church leaders were in Rome Thursday making it in the largest gathering of worldwide media since Pope Francis was elected.
The morning that began with a clear directive from the Holy Father and the words that followed were even more meaningful.
In video testimony revealed only to bishops to protect victims’ identities, the first of several survivors described what happened after he reported his abuse to the church.
“The first thing they did was to treat me as a liar, they turn their backs and tell me that I, and others, were enemies of the church,” the victim said.
Another spoke of 15 year relationship she had with a priest beginning at age 13.
“I got pregnant three times and he made me have an abortion three times,” she said.
And a victim survivor said he was inspired to share his story by late Chicago archbishop, Francis Cardinal George.
“What has wounded me most? The full realization of the total loss of the innocence of my youth,” the victim said.
“hen you hear that you are totally transformed,” Father Hans Zollner said
The inhumane treatment of victim survivors was front and center at a prayer vigil Tuesday night. Some who have been advocates for years and those telling their story for the first time came together.
The pope issued a 21-point mandate, beginning with creating a handbook with steps to take when a sex abuse case emerges.
Peter Isely who is with the group Ending Clergy Abuse doesn’t think it’s enough.
“This is about the rape and sexual abuse of children and your number one thing that you’re going to do, and you’re responsible for these rapists and pedophiles, they’re working for you. They are licensed to practice as priests by you and what are you going to about it? We’re going put together a handbook!” he said.
“This has to be a matter of motivation of the heart,” Cardinal Cupich said. “We can have all the laws in the world, but if there’s not a common commitment and a personal understanding of their responsibility, then the laws on the book will just remain on the book. They have to be implemented by people who are grabbed at the heart by these voices.”
For those who thought this was strictly an American problem, there was an awakening. And while there are different cultural approaches, most here agree, a universal solution is critical.
Friday, Cardinal Cupich addresses the summit.