Fr Lombardi: More space to women in combating abuse

By Olivier Bonnel and Linda Bordoni, 11 October 2021
Former Director of the Holy See Press Office Fr Federico Lombardi SJ. Image: Vatican News

 

Reacting to the publication of the CIASE report on sexual abuse in the Church in France, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi reflects on the need to include women in addressing the crisis and to continue to listen to victims.

Former director of Vatican Radio, papal spokesman, and director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ, says the CIASE report is an important step in the right direction as the Church strives to promote the engagement of the entire Church community in the fight against sexual abuse.

Speaking to Vatican Radio’s Olivier Bonnel, Fr. Lombardi says he is of the opinion that the French Bishops’ Conference has “done very well in requesting such a report,” also in view of the fact that having a “large basis of the information, considerations, and reflections” empowers and substantiates the process to fight clerical abuse.

The CIASE report, released on Tuesday, was commissioned by the French Catholic Bishops and the leaders of religious orders, and brings to light hundreds of thousands of cases of clerical abuse in France since the 1950s.

It is important, says Fr. Lombardi, “to have a point of view and a contribution that comes not from the inside, but from other persons who can look with objectivity, and perhaps with a certain distance, to the reality of the Church.”

He notes that it is positive and useful that this report takes listening to the victims “as a point of departure” and he stresses that “this is the correct point of view.”

It is necessary, he continues, in the fight against this crisis, to “begin again and again, listening to the victims” because it is the only way to understand and see the amount of suffering caused by the abuse.

This listening, Fr Lombardi continues, fuels “a very strong motivation to engage ourselves to cope with this horrible situation.”

Steps already taken

Regarding the Commission’s recommendations to reform canon law, including penal sanctions for clerical sexual abuse, the former director of Vatican Radio points out that in recent years the Universal Church has produced new documents that are very strong in reinforcing and renewing the laws in this field.

For example, he notes, “Vos estis lux mundi is a very fundamental law with the obligation for all priests and religious to denounce crimes of abuse following a procedure for the accountability of superior Bishops and Cardinals.”

Pope Francis, he adds, has already taken some very fundamental steps in this direction. Naturally, he continues, this is a path that has not come to an end: “We need to continue on this path, also in the practice of these norms that need to be renewed because one thing is to write a law, another is to practice.”

The key role of women in the fight against abuse

Fr. Lombardi says he is in total agreement with the Commission’s call to give more space to laypeople and women in the fight against a culture of sex abuse.

“It is an important part of the renewal of the Church,” he says, noting that it is also in line with indications of the Second Vatican Council that foresees more participation of laymen and laywomen at every level in the life of the Church.

In his own experience, he says, a larger role and participation of women is absolutely crucial for a series of reasons including, but not only, their capacity to listen.

“I think that women have an incredible contribution to give as we confront the field of abuses,” Fr. Lombardi concludes, noting their “particular capacity to intervene with attention, sensitivity, and competence: for me, it is very very clear that the larger participation of women is absolutely necessary to cope with this crisis of the abuses.”

With thanks to Vatican News and Olivier Bonnel and Linda Bordoni, where this article originally appeared.

Find out more about Safeguarding in the Diocese of Parramatta at safeguarding.org.au.

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