This fall, Pope Francis summoned bishops from around the world for an unprecedented three-day meeting at the Vatican in February, 2019 focused on protecting minors from sexual abuse by priests. Pope Francis has called for every president of the 114 Catholic bishops’ conferences of the world to meet at the Vatican to discuss the sexual abuse crisis. Holy See spokesperson Paloma García Ovejero said the meeting will be about the “prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.”
This announcement came amid new accusations of pervasive child sex abuse by Catholic priests worldwide for many decades, and a related alleged cover-up, that have shaken the Roman Catholic Church. This includes the United States, Germany, Ireland, Australia, Chile, and the Philippines.
This is the first time that presidents of bishops’ conferences worldwide have been summoned for a Vatican meeting on a specific topic. Last summer, the Vatican’s former ambassador to the United States accused Pope Francis of ignoring a history of sexual misconduct by an American cardinal.
“It’s a crucial decision by the Pope, because the conferences play a crucial role in implementing all the prevention measures to protect against sexual abuse in the church,” said Professor Ernesto Caffo, a member of the Pope’s Commission for the Protection of Minors.
The United States Catholic church has some of the strictest standards in the world, adopted in 2002 after the Boston child sex abuse scandal. They include mandatory reporting of sexual abuse allegations to civil authorities and a “zero tolerance” policy that is supposed to permanently remove allegedly abusive priests from the ministry. Professor Caffo said he is optimistic that the February conference will be a critical step in transforming talk into “concrete action.”
For 26 years, the author has defended child sex abuse lawsuits against religious entities in Oregon and throughout the country, including some of the biggest in the country. A recent case involved over 70 plaintiffs suing a private school for alleged child abuse by its teachers.