Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta said that while the youth synod is not ignoring the sexual abuse crisis, Catholics looking for thorough answers should wait for a February 2019 meeting of bishops.
He also commented on the effectiveness of Pope Francis’ voice on the abuse issue, saying to those losing trust in the pontiff’s handling of abuse cases: “Give him time.”
Scicluna told journalists Oct. 8 that while the synod fathers will address the fact that young people have been affected by clergy sexual abuse, “the synod is about so many other aspects of the life of young people.”
The question of sexual abuse “should be considered, but I don’t see any answers to these important questions from this synod,” he said, instead pointing to a meeting Pope Francis called with the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences at which the question will be discussed at length.
Scicluna, who served as the Vatican’s sexual abuse prosecutor before becoming a bishop in 2012, has continued to have a high-profile role in addressing clerical sexual abuse. He was appointed by Pope Francis to conduct an on-the-ground investigation, called an apostolic visitation, of a Chilean abuse crisis earlier this year.
Speaking at a briefing about the Oct. 3-28 synod on young people, faith, and vocational discernment, the archbishop underlined that at least some discussion of sexual abuse had been planned for the synod, since the issue can be found in paragraph 66 of the assembly’s Instrumentum laboris, or working document.
The Maltese archbishop also said he understood that the topic has already been broached in each of the synod’s discussion groups of bishops, and will likely receive more space in the synod’s final document.
That being said, “the synod is not about sex abuse of minors,” he stated, noting that the meeting between bishops and Pope Francis in February 2019 will tackle it more thoroughly.
“That is the moment where we need to put on the agenda not only the issue of prevention but also of accountability. That is going to be the best forum for this question,” Scicluna said.
He said the abuse crisis is not being avoided at the synod, especially because most abuse is carried out against minors and young or vulnerable adults. He also emphasized the importance of justice, which he said often “takes too long,” a problem “very painful to Pope Francis.”
About the meeting on child protection to take place in February, he said the myth that the sexual abuse of minors is more prevalent in a particular place or culture has to be dispelled and this meeting, which will bring together bishops from all over the world, will provide an opportunity to discuss how to tackle issues “on the ground.”