The Vatican and Sexual Assault

Sinziana Stanciu, ‘20

For the past few decades, multiple stories regarding the sexual assault of minors in Catholic churches have resurfaced across the United States and abroad to a larger extent than ever before. Particularly, the large exposure in 2002 of the assaults that happened in the Boston area churches which led to the creation of an academy award winning movie, Spotlight. This movie told the story of the journalists who found the truth about this extremely covered up issue. In the past few years, this issue has been found to be larger than just in Boston, it is now a global issue considering the expanse of the Catholic church. With about 1.1 Billion followers globally (Pew Research Center), the Vatican, which is the epicenter of the Catholic religion, has recognized this issue, and now they’re taking action.

Especially in the past few years, there have been numerous calls upon the Vatican to take action against their priests that have been found to sexually abuse children rather than ignoring this issue. In 2014, the UN called upon the Vatican to permanently remove the abusers from their positions. In August he condemned clerical sexual abuse (CNN). Further, in response to make internal and external calls for change in the culture of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Pope Francis called a summit with in Vatican to discuss a solution to this issue this February.

Although this summit’s goal is to bring justice to those who have been abused by priests in the Catholic Church, covering up sexual assault has been a part of its culture for many years. At the summit, the extreme lengths to cover up these horrific actions were revealed by Cardinal Marx from Germany. The destroying and lapse of document keeping in relation to the allegations may have been part of this larger cover-up (CNN). This information has become a large part of the entire summit. Focused around trying to create a safe environment, the Vatican has taken steps especially during the last few weeks. A priest from the United States who has been found guilty in the court of the church has been dismissed last week, right before the conference began. But what is necessary is more action against those who have hurt people for decades.

Children are not the only ones who have been sexually assaulted in the Catholic Church. Nuns have been a part of the discussion in more recent years as well. They have been sexually abused and there have been many cases in which they have called for change within the church. At this summit very few nuns were summoned by the Pope, but a nun who got to speak made an impact with her words regarding the abuse encountered in the church. Sister Veronica Openibo made it clear that the church needs a policy of transparency to move forward (PBS).

Certainly, there is a lot of change for the Catholic Church ahead with the steering of Pope Francis into a new culture within this religion. It will take many years and hard work, but what is crucial in remembering is that they have taken the first step toward justice. There is a need to find justice for all of the victims.