Acknowledge church's hypocrisy: African nun scolds Catholic bishops on sexual abuse crisis

Pope Francis.  Courtesy

But this, he stressed, requires action.

Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich told the conference that new legal procedures were needed to both report and investigate Catholic superiors when they are accused of misconduct themselves or of negligence in handling abuse cases. It is the first time in the history of the clerical sexual scandals of recent decades that bishops from across the world have discussed episcopal accountability over abuse.

"It makes it Church, where we are all in this together", he explained in a briefing with journalists after delivering his talk. Those procedures, which called for a code of conduct for bishops and a third-party confidential reporting system, ran into legal snags at the Vatican, which blocked US bishops from voting on them in November. "The Catholic world is adrift, and, with anguish, the question is asked: Where is the Church going?" He recommended establishing a web portal service or dedicated telephone line for reporting.

His opening remarks appeared aimed at countering scepticism among victims who said the meeting looked like a public relations exercise. "I got pregnant three times and he made me have an abortion three times, quite simply because he did not want to use condoms or contraceptives", a woman said. When a metropolitan is accused, he explained, another archbishop or senior prelate would be called to investigate. The Holy See refused a request from the US bishops conference to conduct a full-scale Vatican investigation into who knew what and when about McCarrick's rise through the church's ranks, agreeing instead to a limited review of the Holy See's own archives.

The cardinal explained that a bishop is not just in charge of his diocese, but by virtue of his position has wider ecclesial responsibility.

Just as for a mother there are no first or second-class children, she said, there are no first and second-class children for the Church, underlining the fact that "Her seemingly more important children, as are you, bishops and cardinals (I dare not say the Pope), are no more so than any other boy, girl or young person who has experienced the tragedy of being the victim of abuse by a priest". Amid protests by a section of Catholic community in Mumbai, Archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, opened the second day of a landmark summit at the Vatican on tackling paedophilia in the clergy.

Alazraki, who was applauded at the end of her speech, also spoke of cases of corruption where religious orders and Church officials hid abuse because "money, compensation, gifts" or other illegal or unethical activity. Juan Carlos Cruz, a victim of a Chilean predator priest, was among those calling zero tolerance by the church.

Dr Ghisoni argued for reforming legislation over "Pontifical Secrecy", a code of confidentiality which places a strict burden of secrecy on certain pieces of information.

But a crisis that has crossed borders and generations, lacerating the church and shaking the pope's credibility, is standing in the way as he seeks to forge a path ahead.

The President has repeatedly dared anyone to debunk his allegations and has called for reforms in the Catholic Church. "And I see that willingness there - that's what gives me hope".

Victims groups have complained that while some priests who sexually abused children were eventually disciplined by the Church and sentenced by civil authorities, the bishops who either enabled the abuse or covered it up have not been punished.

"The situation of Theodore McCarrick is a very, very sad moment in history", Cupich said. And in his speech, he recognised the disconnect between bishops and people that the abuse crisis had revealed.

"Our lack of response to the suffering of victims, yes even to the point of rejecting them and covering up the scandal to protect perpetrators and the institution, has injured our people", Tagle said.

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