March 23, 2017
Opening today’s seminar at the Gregorian University in Rome on “Safeguarding children in homes and schools worldwide,” Cardinal Seán O’Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, told participants: “Let there be no doubts, no other topic is more important for the life of the church. If the church is not committed to child protection, our efforts at evangelization will be to no effect; we will lose the trust of our people and gain the opprobrium of the world.” Indeed, he said, “there is simply no justification in our day for failures to enact concrete safeguarding standards for our children, young men and women, and vulnerable adults.”
The importance of the seminar was underlined by the presence of six cardinals (including the secretary of state), several bishops, other Vatican officials, ambassadors, rectors of pontifical universities and colleges, authorities from the Italian state police and the Vatican gendarme, as well as professionals in the field from all continents and many countries.
Cardinal O'Malley: ‘There is simply no justification in our day for failures to enact concrete safeguarding standards for our children.’
The Boston cardinal, who enjoys great credibility in this field, repeated what he told the Consistory of Cardinals in February 2015, namely, that abuse “is not a Catholic problem or even a clerical problem, it is a human problem,” but “when abuse is perpetrated by a priest the damage is even more profound.” He recalled that Pope Francis gave the P.C.P.M. the task of “promoting responsibility in local churches” and assisting them through an exchange of best practices and programs of education, training and developing adequate responses to sexual abuse.
Today’s seminar, organized by the abuse commission’s working group, headed by Australia’s Kathleen McCormack, and Center for Child Protection at the Gregorian University, headed by Hans Zollner, S.J., brought together experts from Argentina, Australia, Colombia, Mexico and Italy who presented a stark picture of the abuse happening in their countries and the multiple efforts being made by the church, N.G.O.s and state bodies to combat it.