ROME — Bishops and the leaders of religious orders around the world have been invited to a symposium at Rome’s Jesuit University in February about how to prevent and respond to abuse of children by clergy members.
Psychologists, theologians and child-abuse specialists are expected to participate in the symposium, providing expertise to bishops, whom the Vatican has given a deadline of next May to come up with guidelines on how to handle accusations of abuse. Plans also call for information to be posted on an Internet learning center and in a database that will involve cooperation with medical schools and universities and will be accessible, in part, to the public.
Times Topic: Roman Catholic Church Sex Abuse Cases
“The church is taking an important step in the formation of the clergy,” Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, the Vatican’s internal prosecutor in charge of handling sexual abuse cases, told reporters on Saturday.
And the multilingual Internet database will amass information “that will continue through time” and reach a wide audience, he said.
The online learning center is also expected to help shape “a consistent response by the Catholic Church that is cross-cultural among the more than 2,700 dioceses throughout the world,” said Msgr. Klaus Peter Franzl of the Archdiocese of Munich.
The conference in Rome, called Toward Healing and Renewal, is part of the Roman Catholic Church’s response as it struggles to deal with the disapproval and anger among Catholics (and the wider public) stirred by the revelations of widespread abuse of children and adolescents around the world.
The church’s path to redemption has been bumpy, and attempts to right the wrongs have been criticized as lacking, in particular in terms of holding bishops responsible in cases of cover-up.
Last month, in a letter informing them of the request for the guidelines on handling abuse complaints, the Vatican told bishops to make fighting sexual abuse of minors a priority. The Vatican also told the bishops that they should cooperate with the law enforcement authorities.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the symposium and database were signs that the church was resolute in its commitment to tackling child sexual abuse. “We’re doing something, and we’re doing it seriously,” he said. “It will be difficult, but we’re determined.”