Anti-abuse summit – be realistic

A leading expert in the field of child protection, Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, says while one goal of the Vatican’s upcoming anti-abuse summit aims to get the world’s bishops on the same page about abuse prevention, a uniform solution to the clerical abuse issue doesn’t exist.

Zollner says he believes the reason for calling the 21-24 February summit is because “this is a very urgent, very challenging moment for the Church and an urgent question which the Holy Father has made a priority for himself and for the Church, by calling for this unique meeting.”

Zollner is the head of the Center for Child Protection at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minor.

He is also a member of the organising committee for the summit.

Others include Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Oswald Gracias from India and Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, the Vatican’s former top prosecutor of sex abuse crimes.

The heads of all bishop’s conferences throughout the world will attend the gathering, as well as members of Eastern Catholic Churches and religious superiors.

Echoing the Pope’s words, Zollner says the summit will be a meeting of “pastors” who will come together to pray, and who will “listen to be informed about what they need to do, and to own that.”

While a three-day-meeting is not enough to dive into complex issues such as implications related to canon law, there needs to be follow-through on what is discussed.

One goal will be to achieve some sort of global uniformity in terms of best-practices in abuse prevention and prosecution.

“At the same time, there can be no one-size-fits-all guideline for the whole Church, because our languages do not translate certain concepts, the law systems are completely different, the political and social situations are very diverse,” he says.

“If Rome comes and gives everybody one guideline, everyone thinks things are solved once and for all,” but this is not the case, he said. “You need to be sure those responsible do the work.”


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