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Pope Convenes Summit To Address Clergy's Sexual Abuse Of Children


The pope has summoned more than a hundred bishops from around the world to address Catholic clergy sexual abuse of children. The three-day meeting begins today. This is the first gathering of its kind, even though this issue has long plagued the Roman Catholic Church. Father Thomas Reese joins us now from the summit in Rome. He is a senior analyst at Religion News Service and also author of "Inside The Vatican." Father Reese, thanks a lot for coming back on the program.

THOMAS REESE: Sure - happy to be with you.

GREENE: What's the goal of this gathering?

REESE: I think the goal of this gathering is to emphasize the pope's point that we need to focus on what's good for victims. And that means removing any bad priest from the priesthood and holding bishops accountable who aren't with the program, who aren't protecting children. And I think it also means, you know, talking about the importance of transparency so that people know and can believe that the church is doing the right thing. The problem is in the past, there was too much cover-up. There was too much denial. And sadly, some of that is still going on in some parts of the world.

GREENE: So if you say that the goal is to really focus on what is best for survivors of abuse, are there going to be survivors there to actually talk about what they have been through so bishops and others really understand what's happened here?

REESE: You're absolutely right. It's extremely important that the bishops hear from survivors of abuse. In fact, Pope Francis told them all before they came to Rome to actually meet with victims of abuse in their diocese and listen to them. And I thought it was quite significant that the very first presentation at the meeting this morning was a video of five survivors of abuse telling their stories. And it - you know, they had some tough things to say about how the church had treated them.

It was so important, I thought, that they got the first word in at this meeting. There are also going to be victims who will participate in the prayer services that will conclude every - the meetings each day. So this is extremely important because, you know, when you hear their stories, it just tears your guts up how badly they were injured and harmed by these criminal priests.

REESE: Do you have confidence that this will go beyond a summit that is just meant to regain credibility? - that there will actually be concrete steps coming out of this that will satisfy critics of the church who've been so skeptical.

REESE: I think that, you know, for most Americans, everything we're hearing at the meeting we've heard before. And - but, you know, in other parts of the world, this is something that has to be emphasized so that they get their act together and don't make the same mistakes that the American bishops made.

GREENE: And what were those mistakes?

REESE: Oh, denying that there's problems, blaming the victims, covering up, moving priests from one place to another thinking you can save the priests. I - you know, all of these things were stupid things that the bishops did in the past in the United States but they've stopped doing since 2002.

GREENE: Father Thomas Reese from Rome, where he's attending the summit to address clergy sex abuse of minors. Father Reese, thank you.

REESE: Good to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.