✣ Pope calls unprecedented abuse summit
Pope Francis has called the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences to a summit in Rome in February to “speak about the prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults”. The announcement came after the Pope held a three-day meeting with his council of cardinal advisers. Among them is Cardinal Seán O’Malley, one of the Church’s most authoritative figures on abuse. The gathering of the 100 or so presidents will take place on February 21-24.
What commentators are saying
Phil Lawler, writing at Catholic Culture.org, said the summons was “unprecedented”, and once might have conveyed a sense of urgency. “Not now,” he wrote, noting it was five years since Francis set up a commission on the protection of children. “Please, not more talk,” he said. “Action!” Many saw the announcement as an attempt to recast the abuse crisis as being solely about the abuse of children. In the US and Europe, said EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, that aspect of the crisis had been largely dealt with. “This latest fall-out is over bishops abusing their power and the abuse of seminarians,” he wrote on Twitter.
John Allen, at Crux, said the summit was possibly Pope Francis’s “highest-stakes gamble”. He had often suggested, he said, that if Francis were seen as complicit on abuse it would end the public’s love affair with him. ‘‘That’s precisely the point we seem to be at: people are asking … if he personally is culpable for covering up abuse.” The way out is for the Vatican to “disclose what it knew, and when it knew it, beginning with the McCarrick case”; and to create “the same strong accountability for the cover-up as for the crime”.
If the summit passes without breakthroughs on these fronts, he wrote, then it would create a “sense of disillusionment from which even Pope Francis might struggle to recover”. Allen said he was unsure if the Vatican could take such significant steps in five months. A three-day meeting is also rather short, he said, especially with bishops’ conference presidents who will resist “prefabricated outcomes”.
✣US business leaders suspend Vatican donation
Bishops are not plotting to oust the Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, a an official has said. Fr Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the bishops’ public affairs committee, said he did not know if a “destabilisation plot” existed, as Duterte claimed, but said that “if there is such a plan, [Church leaders are] not part of it”.
Why was it under-reported
Most Catholic media are focused on the abuse crisis and the Church’s difficult relationship with Duterte is already well-known. But tensions between the president and his opponents have reached a new level in recent weeks, with Duterte threatening legal action against one of his most vocal critics, SenatorAntonio Trillanes. Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iñiguez said it was a “time for moral courage”, suggesting that the targeting of Trillanes was Duterte’s bid “to strike a final death blow to dissent, democracy and to our nation’s moral fibre”.
What will happen next?
Duterte claimed a foreign power tipped him off about a plot by an alliance of opposition groups, communists and former soldiers, and said that action was planned for today (September 21). Some Church leaders are sceptical about the claims. Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila described it as an “old tune strongmen use when they land in hot water”. He insisted that the Church would not cease its criticism. “The Church has to speak out and warn the people of the dangers of authoritarianism,” he said.
✣ The week ahead
The bishops of England and Wales will begin their ad limina visit to Rome on Sunday. The week will be spent in meetings with various Vatican dicasteries and will culminate in an audience with Pope Francis. Ahead of the trip, each bishop will have compiled a detailed report about his diocese. Their last ad limina visit was in 2010.
Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh has announced a Year of Repentance, starting on Sunday. The year will include Ember Days, when he is asking clergy to fast, abstain from meat and make a Holy Hour. The laity are also invited to join in.
Little sisters of Jesus will be giving a talk this evening at Holy Rood Church, Swindon, about the life of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, who inspired the creation of their contemplative order. Blessed Charles, a French nobleman turned priest who lived as a hermit in the north African desert, was murdered by armed bandits in 1916. The order was founded 23 years later.
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