Catholic Women's Forum to Help Restore Church Credibility and Healing, Cupich Says Summit Signals Sweeping Changes

The CWF has sent three documents to shore up the cause

A few abuse victims will meet the organizers of the Pope Francis helmed summit scheduled this week. They intend to protest against the response of the Catholic Church to the sex abuse crisis and also demand an end to multiple years of cover-ups by innumerable church functionaries across all levels of the church hierarchy. These abuse survivors will meet the four members of the organizing committee on February 20.

This meeting comes before the much bigger summit which is scheduled to be attended by 190 presidents of bishops' conferences from all over the world. Important Vatican officials will also attend the meeting. The organizers termed the summit a “turning point” when it came to the approach of the church to combat clergy sex abuse. The summit, as per them, would concentrate on three essential aspects of managing the crisis: making the attending bishops aware of their responsibilities so they can protect their own and consequences that will happen if they do not. The summit will also underscore the requirement of transparency. The last action is stressed by the Vatican's top sex crimes investigator, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, and one of the meeting's organizers. He said transparency is necessary as the knee-jerk response of the church is mostly of denial. The practice of silence has only increased the problem.

Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, knows only too well on matters pertaining to silence on the sexual abuse cases within the church. He had arrived at the Vatican during a time when the Office of the Illinois Attorney General ferreted out a large number of unsolved sexual abuse complaints against several Catholic priests. A 2018 released report by Lisa Madigan, the then Attorney General, laid out in detail how clerical abuse of minors was much more widespread than what is reported. The Attorney General’s office found the number could top 500 when dating back to the 1960s.

The gathering bishops will have an added advantage to plan the way forward: the perspective of a large number of American Catholic women. Three documents were sent to Pope Francis by Catholic Women’s Forum (CWF), with copies marked to all American bishops and archbishops along with other key global church functionaries. The documents include a survey of over 5,000 Catholic women, testimony from a woman whose son was abused, and “recommendations from five women seminary professors on seminary culture, formation, reducing clericalism, and fostering chaste celibacy.” The aim of these documents includes restoring the credibility of the Catholic Church and promoting healing.

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