Latin American cardinals add their voices to press for abuse reform

Latin American cardinals add their voices to press for abuse reform

Latin American cardinals add their voices to press for abuse reform

Cardinal Sergio da Rocha of Brasilia, Brazil, is seen in this 2016 file photo. (Credit: CNS photo/Paul Haring.)

Experts say that an estimated 40 percent of all allegations of clerical sexual abuse studied come from Latin America.

ROME – Two Latin American cardinals, one of whom will take part in a high-stakes summit this week in Rome, say that despite perceptions in some ecclesiastical circles of clerical sexual abuse as a “Western” or “Anglo-Saxon” preoccupation, they share the determination to push the case for reform.

Cardinal Sergio da Rocha, president of the Brazilian bishops’ conference, said Monday there’s “greater awareness of the seriousness of child abuse, especially when committed by clergy, as well as the need for justice and assistance to victims.”

In a statement, the prelate said that the matter of protection of children has been addressed by the Brazilian bishops at a regional and national level, including the revision in 2011 of the guidelines for the formation of priests.

Da Rocha believes that the clear lines given by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI have helped the Church become more aware of the problem and of the need to take energetic action to overcome clerical sexual abuse and prevent it. He added that he hopes the meeting in the Vatican will offer “more guidance for improving existing initiatives.”

According to Cardinal Jorge Urosa of Venezuela, emeritus of Caracas, “four days will not be enough to solve the big problem” of sexual abuse by “priests, religious and even some bishops and cardinals.”

But by listening to survivors, through prayer and reflection, interchanging experiences and some specific lines of action, during the meeting it will be possible to “outline some measures and to take decisions that may help to stop and prevent the problem, and to promote the purification and renewal of the clergy and consecrated people.”

Experts say that an estimated 40 percent of all allegations of clerical sexual abuse being handled at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith come from Latin America. Yet despite a massive abuse crisis in Chile, most observers believe the clerical abuse scandals haven’t fully arrived in the region that contains the largest population of Catholics in the world.

Da Rocha said the protection of children needs to receive more attention, not only within the Church but in society as a whole, because there are cases of abuse that take part in other environments, including the family.

When it comes to the case of the Church, he called for a greater attention to human-affective training, but also to the need for greater agility in the investigation of the allegations, as well as better treatment of victims.

Da Rocha also said that the Brazilian bishops have been working on a text on the Pastoral Care of Victims of Sexual abuse, that will soon be published, after several revisions, including one by the Vatican’s Congregation of the Faith, that approved the text in late 2018.

Venezuela’s Urosa will not be attending the meeting, as he’s no longer president of the conference, but he sent his reflection to a handful of media outlets, including Crux, on Sunday.

“It is important to study and attack the problem of clericalism, understood here as the abuse of power by clergy and religious, which surrounds the sexual abuse of minors,” Urosa wrote. But it’s important to “address also the problem of the sexual abuse itself, which is a sinful transgression of God’s law, and a failure to observe and to live the virtue of chastity consecrated to Our Lord, broken by an immoral and criminal sexual activity.”

According to the Venezuelan prelate, it’s also necessary to face the problem of “homosexuality in some clergy and religious, as many studies show that about 80 percent of abuse has affected young males.”

“The large number of accusations of sexual abuse also indicates a descent or fall of the necessary high standards of moral life in those individuals in the clergy and consecrated life,” Urosa wrote.

The cardinal closed his message saying that the upcoming summit should call every priest and consecrated man towards a “more faithful, elevated and authentic observance of the consecration to God in perfect chastity.”

“In this materialistic, erotic, and relativistic age, which rejects norms, rules and moral limits, we have been called to be real witnesses of the Kingdom of God, of the total love of Christ to the Church, his spouse, and of the future kingdom of Heaven,” he said.

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