The Vatican's spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi commented today on the decades-old sex abuses cases in several European countries that recently came to light and lauded the Church for its “transparency” and “timely and decisive action” in dealing with them. Fr. Lombardi also stressed that focusing just on the problem of sex abuse in the Church gives a “false perspective” on an issue that affects society at large.
The Vatican spokesman opened his remarks by first noting the efforts of Pope Benedict and the Church to address the problems within the Church in Ireland. However, Fr. Lombardi explained that his comments are aimed more on the sex abuse cases surfacing in Germany, Austria and Holland.
“The main ecclesiastical institutions concerned - the German Jesuit Province (the first to be involved, through the case of the Canisius-Kolleg in Berlin), the German Episcopal Conference, the Austrian Episcopal Conference and the Netherlands Episcopal Conference - have faced the emergence of problem with timely and decisive action,” Fr. Federico stated on Tuesday.
“They have demonstrated their desire for transparency and, in a certain sense, accelerated the emergence of the problem by inviting victims to speak out, even when the cases involved date from many years ago. By doing so they have approached the matter 'on the right foot', because the correct starting point is recognition of what happened and concern for the victims and the consequences of the acts committed against them.”
At the same time, Fr. Lombardi said that “These events mobilize the Church to find appropriate responses and should be placed in a more wide-ranging context that concerns the protection of children and young people from sexual abuse in society as a whole.”
“Certainly, the errors committed in ecclesiastical institutions and by Church figures are particularly reprehensible because of the Church's educational and moral responsibility,” he noted, “but all objective and well-informed people know that the question is much broader, and concentrating accusations against the Church alone gives a false perspective.”
“By way of example,” Fr. Lombardi offered, “recent data supplied by the competent authorities in Austria shows that, over the same period of time, the number of proven cases in Church institutions was 17, while there were 510 other cases in other areas. It would be as well to concern ourselves also with them.”
Fr. Lombardi also ensured that the “the crime of the sexual abuse of minors has always been considered” by the Catholic Church “as one of the most serious of all, and canonical norms have constantly reaffirmed this, in particular the 2001 Letter 'De delictis gravioribus.'” Fr. Lombardi insisted that although some have cited the document as contributing to creating a “culture of silence,” those “who know and understand its contents, are aware that it was a decisive signal to remind the episcopate of the seriousness of the problem, as well as a real incentive to draw up operational guidelines to face it.”
The Vatican spokesman concluded his remarks by saying that “although the seriousness of the difficulties the Church is going through cannot be denied, we must not fail to do everything possible in order to ensure that, in the end, they bring positive results, of better protection for infancy and youth in the Church and in society, and the purification of the Church herself.”