Young people urged to report abuses of clergy
CEBU, Philippines — The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has encouraged young people not to be afraid in reporting cases of sexual abuses or harassment involving the clergy.
At a dialogue with the National Youth Day delegates last Saturday at the Cebu City Sports Center, CBCP President and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles said victims may seek help from their respective bishops in their dioceses.
“Do not be afraid, for other young people, to go to your bishops and priests and open and unburden your hurting situation. And if I may speak in behalf of the bishops of the Philippines, they will listen to you… we will listen to you and we are ready to ask for your forgiveness,” he said in response to a question from a delegate.
The NYD delegates had a chance to ask whatever questions, even controversial ones, during the “Dialogue with the Bishops” at the Saturday Grand Festival Night – which is one of the main highlights of the weeklong celebration that concluded recently.
Valles said that Church leaders are willing to ask for forgiveness and are asking for forgiveness to the victims of abuses, especially to the young who are mostly vulnerable to such situations.
“We bow in shame facing this reality of sexual abuse… Yes, we bow in shame and it is good for us to be reminded that the Holy Father (Pope Francis) himself has asked forgiveness for this deep hurt done by the Church (members) to the young people. Cardinals, bishops and priests would be one with the Holy Father, we ask for forgiveness,” he said.
“The (Catholic) Church is very ready and has done so to admit the situation and will continue to say we are so sorry and beg for forgiveness from the Lord and from those hurt. A wrongdoing has been done,” he said further.
But the CBCP head assured that the Catholic Church hierarchy is “determined and committed” at eradicating and preventing these kind of unfortunate situations.
“Not only (by seeking) forgiveness, let us also know. (May you) realize that starting from Holy Father, we are determined and committed to stop this in the Church and (we will) do all we can to stop this,” said Valles.
“In concrete (actions,) there are certain procedures on what we can do. But be assured we will bring justice to all (and) bring to justice the perpetrators. Be assured that the Church will also accompany those who are hurting from being abused. We will be with you,” he continued.
Valles was bold in saying that the Church leaders will not cover or run away from these sexual abuses cases involving the clergy, and are willing to stand with the victims.
“We can be fought with hesitancy and doubts… On the actual level, it is quite difficult to act. But we will ask the Lord to give us the grace to be your shepherds, to put into action what we have said, to listen to your sentiments, not to evade and make some cover up,” he said.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, for his part, said that the bishops are willing to walk through the victims towards healing.
For one, the Church can provide spiritual counselling and assist the victim that they can receive psychological help.
Papal Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia also shared his thoughts.
Whether the Church cover a wrongdoing or expose it, he stressed out that leaders should side with those who are suffering, particularly the victims.
“Always know that Jesus is taking care of those who suffer and we (Church leaders) should take this position,” he said.
He also thanked those people who reported the alleged abuses because they also help guide the Church and its need to respond decisively.
If people observe a priest “at risk” or showing manifestations that they are losing passion in their service, Caccia urged young people to open up with him and remind him of his commitment and vows before the Church.
In this way, young Catholics can also contribute in preventing these “atrocities” committed by the clergy, he added.
And instead of keeping silent and just abandon or leave the Church, the papal nuncio asked young Catholics to never follow these acts and rather learn from these bad experiences and be good examples. (FREEMAN)