The Catholic Church has an uphill journey ahead of it: to shake off the public impression that they do not act enough to prevent child abuse.
But the Vatican – as reported by The Age – has outright rejected this idea in a newly-issued statement.
The same statement praised Cardinal George Pell for his “dignified and coherent” testimony last week, in which he claimed to have no knowledge of the offences committed in Ballarat through the 70s and 80s.
The Vatican also noted the renewed public and press attention brought on by the movie Spotlight, which won a Best Picture Oscar for its dramatisation of a child abuse coverup.
Vatican spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi referred to both the Australian media interest and the Boston-based film as “sensationalist presentation of these two events”.
He said that thanks to this coverage, “it is thought that the Church has done nothing, or very little, to respond to these terrible problems, and that it is necessary to start anew”.
“Objective consideration shows that this is not the case”.
“The encounters held by Benedict XVI and Francis with groups of victims have accompanied this by now long road with the example of listening, the request for forgiveness, consolation and the direct involvement of the Popes”.
“From this perspective, the events in Rome of the last few days may be interpreted in a positive light.
“Cardinal Pell must be accorded the appropriate acknowledgement for his dignified and coherent personal testimony – 20 hours of dialogue with the Royal Commission – from which yet again there emerges an objective and lucid picture of the errors committed in many ecclesial environments, this time in Australia, during the past decades.
“This is certainly useful with a view to a common ‘purification of memory’.
“Recognition is also due to many members of the group of victims who came from Australia for demonstrating their willingness to establish constructive dialogue with Cardinal Pell and with the representative of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, Father Hans Zollner SJ, of the Pontifical Gregorian University, with whom they further developed prospects for effective commitment to the prevention of abuse.”
Father Lombardi also acknowledged the necessity to face child abuse as a broader social problem, citing Asia, where “tens of millions of minors are abused, certainly not in a Catholic context”.
“In summary, the Church, wounded and humiliated by the wound of abuse, intends to react not only to heal herself, but also to make her difficult experience in this field available to others, to enrich her educational and pastoral service to society as a whole, which generally still has a long path to take to realise the seriousness of these problems and to deal with them”.
Is this an appropriate response from the Church? If not: what can they truly do to make things right for the victims?