Today, in Rome, there is a Gregorian University sponsored Symposium entitled "Towards Healing and Renewal." It is a four day gathering of professionals and clergy-types who have responsibility for working with victims and family members of sexual abuse. While not personally in attendance, Pope Benedict XVI was present through his personal message sent to participants and with the presence of several cardinals and bishops, Including William Cardinal Levada, 76, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Cardinal Levada's address, "The Sexual Abuse of Minors: A Multi-faceted Response to the Challenge," follows.
The Pope's message iterates in this context, as he has done in the past, his hope and life's work that "healing for abuse victims must be of paramount concern in the Christian community," with "a profound renewal of the Church at every level." Further, he "supports and encourages every effort to respond with evangelical charity to the challenge of providing children and vulnerable adults with an ecclesial environment conducive to their human and spiritual growth" and he urges the participants in the Symposium "to continue drawing on a wide range of expertise in order to promote throughout the Church a vigorous culture of effective safeguarding and victim support."
The Sexual Abuse of Minors: A Multi-faceted Response to the Challenge Toward Healing and Renewal" is the title given to this Symposium for Catholic Bishops and Religious Superiors on the Sexual Abuse of Minors. For leaders in the Church for whom this Symposium has been planned, the question is both delicate and urgent. Just two years ago, in his reflections on the "Year for Priests" at the annual Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia, Pope Benedict XVI spoke in direct and lengthy terms about priests who "twist the sacrament [of Holy Orders] into its antithesis, and under the mantle of the sacred profoundly wound human persons in their childhood, damaging them for a whole lifetime." I chose this phrase to begin my remarks this evening because I think it important not to lose sight of the gravity of these crimes as we deal with the multiple aspects the Church's response.