Vatican official: protection of minors is goal Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Jun. 27, 2019 -- 12:00 AM

Clergy sexual abuse has impacted many people in society and the Church, including those working in the Church’s “Supreme Court” at the Vatican.

“This work has changed me,” the priest who heads Vatican Disciplinary Action in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith told Catholic journalists June 19.

“When I read the facts of the cases, I feel repulsed,” said Msgr. John Kennedy. However, he and the 16 others working in his office carry on with the work. “For victims and for their parents, it is far worse,” he said. “We’re doing this because it needs to be done to restore what has been damaged.”

Bringing cases into the open

I was at the Catholic Media Conference in St. Petersburg, Fla., when Monsignor Kennedy, a priest from Ireland, gave his address. It was one of the most powerful talks I’ve ever heard. I admire Monsignor Kennedy for his courage in doing the work of bringing justice to victims of sexual abuse and in speaking so candidly with Catholic journalists.

He thanked the Catholic media for bringing attention to sexual abuse by clergy and others in the Church. “I hope all cases are brought into the open,” he said.

St. John Paul II, he reminded the audience, said, “There is no place in the priesthood for those who molest children.”

Monsignor Kennedy emphasized that clerics who have abused minors have betrayed “a sacred trust.” Hearing priests talk with him about the abuse they perpetrated has affected him emotionally.

He was shocked, he said, that some priests who abused children showed “no trace of repentence or sorrow.”

“There are times when I want to get up and scream, that I want to pack up my things and leave the office and not come back.”

However, he has continued his efforts. “Those who work in the Vatican area a special breed. I wish we could work ourselves out of our job.”

Effects of sexual abuse crisis

Monsignor Kennedy said the effects of the sexual abuse crisis in the Church including damaging the Church’s credibility, decreased numbers of vocations in some parts of the world, and a crisis of faith, especially among those who have been abused.

The Church has been responding to the crisis. He praised Vos Estis Lux Mundi, Pope Francis’ recent “motu proprio” that legislated new rules governing sexual abuse and its cover-up.

He called it a “welcome development” that now makes “the denunciation of sexual crimes an obligation.” However, Monsignor Kennedy said that the Church should not wait until the press uncovers abuse cases.

He encouraged Catholic journalists to bring the sexual abuse of minors into the open and urge victims to come forward. “We share the same goal: the protection of minors,” he said.

I joined my fellow Catholic journalists in giving Monsignor Kennedy a standing ovation. Let’s pray for him and others working at the Vatican that they persevere in bringing justice to victims of sexual abuse and that everyone in the Church seeks to end the abuse of children.