The Latest: Author links abuse to church culture of silence


VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Latest on the Vatican summit on dealing with sex abuse of minors (all times local):

7:00 p.m.

The lead organizer of the Vatican’s sex abuse summit has met with an Irish activist who is working to draw attention to a related issue the Vatican has tried to keep quiet: priests who father children.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, the Vatican’s longtime sex crimes investigator, met with Vincent Doyle, himself the child of a priest.

Through his advocacy group Coping International, Doyle has sought to compel Catholic leaders to acknowledge the problem of non-celibate priests getting women pregnant and the impact the church’s enforced secrecy has on the women and their children.

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In a statement Scicluna provided to Doyle, the archbishop said the issue needs to be addressed and the children acknowledged.

The statement, seen by The Associated Press on Wednesday, said: “Each case should be tackled and handled on its own merits; the interest of the child should be paramount.”


6:10 p.m.

A Polish lawmaker says she and a group of activists handed Pope Francis a report on alleged cases of priests sexually abusing children in Poland.

Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus wrote on Twitter that Francis met with the group at the Vatican on Wednesday and promised to read the report before a summit he convened on preventing clergy sex abuse starts Thursday.

A video from the meeting shows Francis holding and then kissing the hand of abuse survivor Marek Lisinski, who heads Poland’s Have No Fear foundation.

The foundation’s report lists hundreds of alleged clergy abuse cases and more than 60 cases in which priests were convicted and given prison sentences.

The report also accuses Poland’s bishops of transferring priests who are suspected of molesting minors among different parishes.

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Poland’s bishops’ conference has opened an education campaign to uncover and prevent child sex abuse.


5:05 p.m.

A Roman Catholic diocese in northwest Spain has become the country’s first to establish a panel to protect and support local victims of clergy sex abuse.

Bishop of Astorga Juan Antonio Menendez said the panel will include a priest, a psychologist, a lawyer and an abuse survivor.

Menendez said during a Wednesday news conference broadcast on YouTube the move is designed to increase confidence in church institutions.

Menendez also is leading efforts by the Spanish bishops’ conference to improve its procedures for handling sexual abuse cases.

Other Spanish dioceses have taken steps such as stipulating that church officials must inform public prosecutors when they get molestation allegations against priests.

The Spanish bishops’ conference current rules, adopted in 2010, merely require ecclesiastical authorities to recommend that victims take their allegations to the police themselves.


4:50 p.m.

Organizers of Pope Francis’ summit on sex abuse are thanking victims for their sincerity and strength in offering their testimonies and advice for ending abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church.

In a statement from the Vatican press office, members of the organizing committee said the two-hour meeting Wednesday with a dozen abuse survivors helped them to understand the “gravity and urgency” of the problem.

The survivors represented various different victim advocacy groups including SNAP, the global group ECA, and France’s “La Parole Liberee,” which has been at the forefront in recent criminal cases of abuse and cover-up.

The summit organizing committee was made up of Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s longtime lead sex abuse investigator; Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias; German Jesuit the Rev. Hans Zollner, an expert in child protection; and the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the former Vatican spokesman who is moderating the summit.


4:20 p.m.

Survivors of sexual abuse who met with the organizers of a Vatican summit on abuse are demanding transparency and true accountability for religious superiors who protect priests who rape and molest children.

A dozen survivors met for more than two hours Wednesday with five key figures in Pope Francis’ summit, which begins Thursday.

Speaking to reporters afterward, U.S. survivor Phil Saviano said he had urged the Vatican to release names of abusive priests around the world and their files so victims can know what became of their cases and other children can be protected from them.

Chilean survivor Juan Carlos Cruz, who organized the meeting, said the group demanded “radical change” in the way the Vatican handles abuse and for it to apply zero tolerance around the globe.

He said: “The culture of cover-up needs to end.”


2 p.m.

A dozen survivors of clergy sexual abuse are meeting with organizers of Pope Francis’ landmark summit on preventing abuse and protecting children.

Chilean survivor Juan Carlos Cruz, who was asked by the Vatican to invite survivors to the meeting, told reporters Wednesday that Francis would not be attending, as had been rumored.

The meeting, with members of the U.S. group SNAP and the global survivor advocacy group ECA, was taking place at a residence near the Vatican.

It is designed to give these activist groups a chance to voice their demands for an end to the cover-up of clergy abuse, the need to listen to survivors and hold the church hierarchy accountable.

Other survivors will be addressing the summit itself, which gets under way Thursday.


11:55 a.m.

Pope Francis says that those who are constantly attacking the church are linked to the devil.

Francis on Wednesday told pilgrims from southern Italy that the church’s “defects” must be denounced in order to correct them.

But he said that those who do so without love and spend their lives “accusing” the church are either the devil’s friends or relatives.

Francis spoke on the eve of a Vatican summit on clergy sex abuse and cover-ups by the church’s hierarchy.

Detractors, including a former Vatican ambassador to the United States, have accused him of not properly dealing with top prelates and priests who were suspected abusers.

Francis didn’t cite specific accusations nor mention the summit in his remarks.

He told the pilgrims that the Bible calls the devil the “great accuser.” He added that “we are all sinners, some big” sinners.


11:20 a.m.

The author of an explosive book on gays in the Vatican says the culture of secrecy that has hidden the double lives of clergy is intrinsically linked to the culture of cover-up about sexual abuse of minors.

Frederic Martel, a French gay rights activist and author of “In the Closet of the Vatican,” told a news conference Wednesday that studies have long shown that being gay is not a risk factor for committing sexual abuse.

But he said the culture of secrecy about priests’ homosexuality had contributed to the abuse scandal.

Speaking at the Foreign Press Association, Martel said: “The problem is that some abusers that commit crimes within the church were protected by this culture of secrecy that was mainly to protect homosexuality.”

Martel’s book comes out Thursday as Pope Francis opens a Vatican summit on preventing sexual abuse.


9:50 a.m.

Pope Francis is summoning church leaders from around the world this week for a tutorial on how to deal with cases of sex abuse by clergy.

Many Catholic church leaders around the world continue to protect the church’s reputation by denying that priests rape children and by discrediting victims, and the pope himself admits to having made similar mistakes.

But Francis has done an about-face and is bringing the rest of the church leadership along with him at the extraordinary summit starting Thursday.

The meeting will bring together some 190 presidents of bishops’ conferences, religious orders and Vatican offices lectures and workshops on preventing sex abuse in their churches, tending to victims, and investigating abuse.

Survivors will be meeting with summit organizers and the bishops themselves ahead of the summit.


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