“Next month’s meeting in Rome, called by Pope Francis to deal with the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, may well be a failure before it even starts.”
So predicts Fr Thomas J Reese, commentator for the US National Catholic Reporter.
Globally respected for his insights into how the Vatican works, and into what can be expected from it, Thomas Reese gives five reasons for this pessimistic prediction:
- The four days allocated to the February summit of over 100 primates from around the world is far too short a time to frame decisions that will meet the obvious need for radical changes to the way bishops will operate.
- The expectations for this meeting are so high that it will be impossible for the gathering to measure up – given the scale of the problems faced.
- Too many bishops, especially those from the global south, are making the mistake of seeing the problem of clerical sexual abuse as a first-world problem – a problem of more advanced societies. They are making the same mistake that first-world bishops were making decades ago.
- The meeting has been called at too short notice – as late as September 2018 – leaving too little time to prepare properly. Even though the organising committee has some persuasive names – e.g. Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta – this committee won’t have the time needed to prepare a plan that could determine an outcome that will satisfy the clamour.
- Pope Francis cannot be expected to be ready to impose solutions (e.g. to the accountability issue) upon other bishops. His style is pastoral and his strategy is collegial – i.e. to work in harness with other bishops rather than to dictate to them.
Fr Reese concludes by hoping he is not being too pessimistic, as a social scientist!
His complete article in the NCR can be found here.
[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a columnist for Religion News Service and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church.]