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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, February 23, 2019 1:00 am

Cardinals call for accountability

Associated Press

VATICAN CITY – Cardinals attending Pope Francis' summit on preventing clergy sex abuse called Friday for a new culture of accountability in the Catholic Church to punish bishops and religious superiors when they fail to protect their flocks from predator priests.

On the second day of Francis' extraordinary gathering of Catholic leaders, the debate shifted to how church leaders must acknowledge that decades of their own cover-ups, secrecy and fear of scandal had only worsened the sex abuse crisis.

“We must repent, and do so together, collegially, because along the way we have failed,” Mumbai Cardinal Oswald Gracias said. “We need to seek pardon.”

Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich told the 190 bishops and religious superiors 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 other abuse cases.

He said lay experts must be involved, since rank-and-file Catholics often know far better than priests what trauma the clergy sex abuse and its cover-up has caused.

“Mothers and fathers have called us to account, for they simply cannot comprehend how we as bishops and religious superiors have often been blinded to the scope and damage of sexual abuse of minors,” Cupich said.

Francis summoned the bishops for the four-day tutorial on preventing sex abuse and protecting children after the scandal erupted again last year in Chile and the U.S. While the Vatican for two decades has tried to crack down on the abusers themselves, it has largely given a pass to the bishops and superiors who moved the predators around.

Cupich called for transparent new structures to report allegations against superiors, investigate them and establish clear procedures to remove them from office if they are guilty of grave negligence in handling abuse cases.

He proposed that metropolitan bishops – responsible for other bishops in their area – conduct the investigations into suspected abuse with the help of lay experts, then forward the results to the Vatican.