Catholic shepherds from around the world gathered at the Vatican to talk about clergy sexual abuse, surrounded by journalists and victims asking lots of questions.
In the end, the only words that will matter — in terms of shaping life in Catholic institutions rocked by decades of scandal — will come from Pope Francis himself, aided by the close circle of cardinals and aides who helped plan this much-anticipated summit and kept it focused on a narrow and relatively safe subject — the abuse of “children.”
In other words, this painful puzzle will be solved by the men who have been in charge all along, including some men involved in the long and complicated career of former cardinal Theodore “Uncle Ted” McCarrick. That’s all Catholics around the world are going to get, for now.
You can sense the anticlimax in the first lines of this wrap-up report from The New York Times:
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis ended a landmark Vatican meeting on clerical sexual abuse by calling “for an all-out battle against the abuse of minors” and insisting that the church needed to protect children “from ravenous wolves.”
But for all the vivid language and the vow “to combat this evil that strikes at the very heart of our mission,” the pope’s speech was short on the sort of detailed battle plan demanded by many Catholics around the world.
Francis had barely finished speaking before some abuse victims and other frustrated faithful began expressing outrage and disappointment at his failure to outline immediate and concrete steps to address the problem.
After spending most of this weekend swimming upstream in the coverage from Rome (along with early #hashtagconfusion news from the United Methodist LGBTQ conference), I actually think that the most important story was a blockbuster Associated Press report from veteran Nicole Winfield.
This story focused on two topics that the principalities and powers in Rome worked so hard to keep out of the headlines — seminarians and the pope’s on connections to the issue of episcopal oversight.
The headline on this story at US News & World Report captured the timing issue: “Argentine Bishop's Case Overshadows Pope's Sex Abuse Summit.” Here’s the overture:
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis may have wrapped up his clergy sex abuse prevention summit at the Vatican, but a scandal over an Argentine bishop close to him is only gaining steam.