Vatican Official on Reviewing Sex Abuse Cases: ‘You Never Get Used to It’

Vatican Official on Reviewing Sex Abuse Cases: ‘You Never Get Used to It’ June 21, 2019

I am in St. Petersburg this week for the Catholic Media Conference, and heard Msgr. Kennedy give this address. It was, to say the least, sobering.

Details, from CNS: 

In a remarkably frank and detailed speech, the Vatican official heading the department charged with reviewing clergy sexual abuse allegations told an assembly of Catholic journalists that his investigators and the press “share the same goal, which is the protection of minors, and we have the same wish to leave the world a little better than how we found it.”

Msgr. John Kennedy, who since 2017 has headed the discipline section for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, described the personal toll on the 17 people in his office as they have reviewed an ever-growing tide of cases involving clergy sexual abuse or related crimes.

“I can honestly tell you that, when reading cases involving sexual abuse by clerics, you never get used to it, and you can feel your heart and soul hurting,” Kennedy said. “There are times when I am pouring over cases that I want to get up and scream, that I want to pack up my things and leave the office and not come back.”

The Irish-born priest has worked and studied in Rome since 1998. Speaking with a soft Irish brogue and an even tone, he gave a humane and at times anguished assessment of his job reviewing the horrors of sexual abuse and its cover-up.

Kennedy views his work as both a privilege and a burden. He also realizes how important the work is. “The topic of the clergy abuse crisis is front and center in our culture,” he noted. “Certainly, no theological topic or any other kind of heresy comes close.”

“For me it is at the heart, at the very core, and some have even suggested that the Church’s heart has been broken in this crisis.”

He said it has also taken its toll on many bishops.

“I have seen bishops who were once smiling pastors turned into morose, burdened figures,” he said. He described bishops who wept when reporting cases and bishops who felt absolutely alone – if not for Kennedy and his office – in confronting the scandals.

“A newly elected, but to date not ordained, bishop told me that he found out that there are many cases of historical abuse cases to be tackled in the diocese. No one told him this before they asked him to accept the responsibility. Now it is too late to say no.”

No matter what pain or suffering he and others feel, however, “this is nothing compared to those who have borne this for years in silence,” he said of sexual abuse victims.

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