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Transparency and rigour after Benedict XVI's example

· Note from the Director General of Vatican Radio ·

In an essay for the Italian daily edition of L'Osservatore Romano published on 10 April, Fr Federico Lombardi, sj, Director General of Vatican Radio, defined one of the primary goals amid the current crisis of sexual abuse of minors as “continuing to seek truth, and peace for the victims”.

“In the context of this concern for victims, the Pope has written of his readiness to hold new meetings with them”, he said, “thus sharing in the journey of the entire ecclesial community. But this journey, in order to achieve profound effects, must take place in a climate of respect for people and the search for peace.

“Alongside concern for victims we must continue to implement, decisively and truthfully, the correct procedures for the canonical judgement of the guilty, and for collaborating with the civil authorities in matters concerning their judicial and penal competencies, taking the specific norms and situations of the various countries into account. Only in this way can we hope effectively to rebuild a climate of justice and complete trust in the ecclesiastical institution”.

Fr Lombardi said that “a number of leaders of communities and institutions, through inexperience or lack of formation, have not had a ready understanding of the protocols and criteria for intervention which could have helped them intervene decisively even when this was very difficult or painful for them.... In this sense, transparency and rigour are urgent requirements for wise and just government within the Church”.

He also mentioned “the formation and selection of candidates for the priesthood, and more generally of the staff of educational and pastoral institutions” as “the basis for an effective prevention of the risk of future abuses”. In this context, the Director General expressed the need for “rediscovering and reaffirming the meaning and importance of sexuality, chastity and emotional relationships in today's world, and doing so in concrete, not just verbal or abstract, terms”.

Fr Lombardi continued: “People who love truth and the objective evaluation of problems will know where to seek and find information for a more overall comprehension of the problem of paedophilia and the sexual abuse of minors in our time.... Thus they will be able to achieve a better understanding of the degree to which the Catholic Church shares in problems that are not only her own, to what extent they have particular gravity for her and require specific interventions, and, finally, the extent to which the experience the Church is going through in this field may also be useful for other institutions or for society as a whole”. He cited statistics: “in the U.S.A. in 2008 alone, 62,000 people were identified as having committed acts of abuse against minors, while the proportion of Catholic priests was so small as not to be taken into consideration as a group”.

In conclusion, Fr Lombardi described Benedict XVI as “a consistent guide on the path of rigour and truth” who “merits all respect and support – testimony of which is reaching him from all parts of the Church”.

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