Tackling Accountability in the Church

Mgr Scicluna.  (Vatican Radio)


2012-09-05 17:49:39


The “most tragic wound” in the Church and in society today is the abuse of power in all its forms:


That theme is at the heart of a two day conference currently taking place at St Mary’s University College in Twickenham near London.

Bringing together theologians, psychologists, sociologists and other leading experts in the field, the meeting aims to go beyond the sex abuse crisis and examine the broader context of power abuse that allowed such criminal activity to flourish.

One of the key speakers at the conference, entitled ‘Redeeming power: overcoming abuse in Church and society’, is Mgr Charles Scicluna, promoter of justice at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He told Vatican Radio’s Philippa Hitchen that empowerment and accountability are two of the keys to resolving the problems of abusive behaviour. He also says this week’s meeting is a significant step forward from the encounter organised last February at the Gregorian University here in Rome…

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Mgr Scicluna says the February conference did have a very important impact…. “then it was the hierarchy that had the opportunity to reflect on this most tragic wound in the Church and in society” but he says this week’s conference at St Mary’s is “an important moment to move from the hierarchy to the theologians. I think that slowly, slowly, we’re getting towards a response which is truly ecclesial – we’re in this together, in suffering the wound and trying to respond to it – I think that’s a very important aspect that I bring away from the conference, to share concerns. He adds that the response has necessarily to be interdisciplinary: “we need the input from psychology, sociology, psychiatry, we need the human sciences to not only diagnose, but also to have a prognosis and also an efficient therapy….”.

Mgr Scicluna notes we have a wealth of reflection from Pope Benedict himself on this subject, including his reflections during an address to the Roman Curia in 2010. “In that he talked about the vision of Hildegard of Bingen, who will be declared a Doctor of the Church next month in October, and how the church suffers because of our sins, but also the role to go forward, to put the most awkward questions – how did we get to this situation and what can we do about it?” Mgr Scicluna also explored two concepts which he says “need to enter into our vocabulary: the first is empowerment of people, not only to be on the receiving end, but also they should be proactive, not only in response but in prevention. The other is accountability – I realise there is no specific word in Italian – but I think the psychology and theology of it has to be developed in that we are accountable not only to God but to each other and to our peers in how we respond to difficult questions including sin and crime.”

Asked about the huge challenge of encouraging accountability within the hierarchical structures of the Catholic Church, Mgr Scicluna says “I think that is a challenge we have to take on and I think the Holy Father is doing that by his example and by the way he addresses this question when he talks to priests, bishops and laity. I think that the moment we feel we are on the same page and we go to give a response together, then we are not only doing the right thing but also showing a good example.”


Pontifical Gregorian University

Pontifical Gregorian University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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