Leaders of Catholic bishops conferences around the world are gathering this month at the Vatican to seek solutions to a decades-long sexual abuse crisis. They’ll pray together, share stories of what’s happening in their regions and look for ways to be more accountable and transparent moving forward.
The Summit on the Protection of Minors is a first-of-its-kind gathering that’s inspired a lot of hope in the Catholic community. However, veteran journalists and Vatican officials have tried to tamp down expectations, noting that many roadblocks stand in the way of meaningful change. For example, Catholic leaders outside countries like the United States, Ireland, Australia and Chile, the sites of major scandals, often don’t see clergy sexual abuse as a systemic problem.
Ahead of the summit, which will take place Feb. 21-24, use this guide to catch up on major Catholic news from 2018. These articles and sources will help you find local, national and international angles to watch during this historic event.
Background on the summit
- Read “Pope downplays expectations for sexual abuse meeting in Rome” from Religion News Service on Jan. 30, 2019.
- Read “Vatican summit to help nations lagging on abuse policies, Jesuit says” from Catholic News Service on Jan. 17, 2019.
- Read “Five reasons the pope’s clergy sex abuse meeting in Rome will fail” from Religion News Service on Jan. 17, 2019.
- Read “Vatican lowers expectations ahead of February’s sex abuse summit” from America on Jan. 16, 2019.
- Read “Meeting among Pastors with a specific purpose” from Vatican News on Jan. 10, 2019.
- Read “Former papal abuse commissioners want re-evaluation of group” from National Catholic Reporter on Dec. 27, 2018.
- Read “Victims, accountability on agenda at pope’s sex abuse summit” from The Associated Press on Dec. 18, 2018.
- Read “A reality check on expectations for February child abuse summit” from Crux on Dec. 9, 2018.
- Listen to “Will the Vatican’s sexual abuse summit make a difference?” from America’s Inside the Vatican podcast on Nov. 28, 2018.
- Listen to “What’s behind the stalled U.S. bishops’ vote on sex abuse?” from America’s Inside the Vatican podcast on Nov. 14, 2018.
- Read “Vatican orders US bishops to delay taking action on sexual abuse crisis” from CNN on Nov. 13, 2018.
- Read “Understanding why the Synod of Bishops blinked on ‘zero tolerance’” from Crux on Oct. 30, 2018.
- Read “Pope Francis summons bishops to Vatican for summit on preventing sex abuse” from USA Today on Sept. 12, 2018.
Broader coverage of clergy sexual abuse
- Read “D.C. attorney general proposes making clergy ‘mandated reporters’ of abuse” from The Washington Post on Jan. 23, 2019.
- Read “How 2018 became the Catholic Church’s year from hell” from CNN on Dec. 29, 2018.
- Read “Illinois AG says Catholic Church failed to disclose abuse allegations against 500 priests and clergy” from CNN on Dec. 20, 2018.
- Listen to “Juan Carlos Cruz: the survivor who changed the pope’s mind on sex abuse” from America’s Jesuitical podcast on Nov. 30, 2018.
- Read “The Pennsylvania report on clergy sex abuse spawned a wave of probes nationwide. Now what?” from The Washington Post on Nov. 22, 2018.
- Read “Washington Catholics stunned to learn some beloved priests were accused of abuse decades ago” from The Washington Post on Oct. 16, 2018.
- Read “Confidence in Pope Francis Down Sharply in U.S.” from Pew Research Center on Oct. 2, 2018.
- Listen to “Young Catholics on healing from the clergy sex abuse crisis” from National Catholic Reporter’s In Conversation podcast on Sept. 21, 2018.
- Read “As Catholic sex abuse investigations begin, questions remain” from Religion News Service on Sept. 19, 2018.
- Read “Why this mother of a priest abuse survivor still has faith in the Catholic Church” from the Tennessean on Sept. 11, 2018.
- Listen to “Updates on the clergy sex abuse crisis” from National Catholic Reporter’s In Conversation podcast on Sept. 7, 2018.
- Read “‘A playbook for concealing the truth’: Grand jury’s investigative report identifies over 300 abusive priests” from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Aug. 14, 2018.
John L. Allen Jr. is editor of Crux, a website specializing in coverage of the Catholic Church. He previously was the longtime Rome correspondent for National Catholic Reporter. Allen is considered a top Vaticanologist and a leading English-language expert and commentator on the papacy.
Michael Bayer is the director of evangelization and adult formation at St. Clement Parish in Chicago. He often tweets about the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, sharing his perspective as a lay leader.
Frederick Berlin is an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the Sexual Behavior Consultation Unit. He is director of the National Institute for the Study, Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Trauma in Baltimore. He was a consultant to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse from its inception to 2000.
Jason Berry, a Louisiana journalist, broke the first stories of sexual abuse by priests in 1985. He wrote Lead Us Not Into Temptation: Catholic Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children and, with Gerald Renner, Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II.
Nicholas P. Cafardi is a leading experts on the Catholic Church’s response to abusive clergy and an expert on canon law. He is an attorney with Cafardi Ferguson Wyrick Weis and Stotler in Sewickley, Pa.
Joseph Chinnici is a Franciscan friar and professor of history at the Franciscan School of Theology, which is affiliated with the University of San Diego. He is the author of When Values Collide: The Catholic Church, Sexual Abuse and the Challenges of Leadership.
Juan Carlos Cruz is an advocate for survivors of clergy sexual abuse. By sharing his own experience of abuse, he spurred the Vatican to take action in Chile and later received an apology from Pope Francis. Cruz now lives in Philadelphia and works in communications.
Kathleen Sprows Cummings is an associate professor of American studies at the University of Notre Dame and director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism. She is an expert on the history of women and American religion and the study of U.S. Catholicism. She is the author of New Women of the Old Faith: Gender and American Catholicism in the Progressive Era.
Cardinal Blase Cupich is archbishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
He is on the organizing committee for the summit on sexual abuse.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo is metropolitan archbishop of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Contact through Jo Ann Zuniga.
Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of survivors of clergy sexual misconduct. She made national headlines when she was invited to give an address on clergy abuse to the Catholic bishops at their June 2002 meeting in Dallas. She is the author of Perversion of Power: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church and co-editor of Predatory Priests, Silenced Victims: The Sexual Abuse Crisis and the Catholic Church.
The Rev. James Martin is a Jesuit priest and editor at large at America magazine in New York. His books include Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity.
Kathleen McChesney is a leadership consultant with Kinsale Management Consulting. She previously worked for the FBI and led the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Child Protection. She is the co-editor of Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: A Decade of Crisis, 2002-2012. Contact her through her organization’s website.
Thomas Plante is a professor of psychology at Santa Clara University in California and an expert on the causes and frequency of sexual abuse by clergy. He is the editor or author of multiple books, including Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: A Decade of Crisis, 2002-2012.
The Rev. Thomas J. Reese is a Jesuit priest and senior analyst for Religion News Service. He writes and comments widely on Catholic culture and politics. He is the author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church.
Krysten Winter-Green is a clinical social worker who specializes in clergy sexual abuse. She has consulted for Catholic dioceses and congregations and previously served on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge leads the Archdiocese of Brisbane, Australia. He’s also president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. Request an interview through Adrian Taylor.
Marie Collins is a survivor of clergy sexual abuse who now advocates for meaningful change in Catholic Church policy. She was appointed to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in 2014, but she resigned in frustration in 2017 because of a lack of action from Vatican officials.
Bishop Lionel Gendron is president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. He oversaw the creation of “Protecting Minors from Sexual Abuse,” the organization’s guidelines to responding to and preventing sexual abuse, which was released in October 2018.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias is archbishop of the Archdiocese of Bombay, India, and president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India.
He is on the organizing committee for the Vatican’s child sex abuse summit.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi is a Catholic priest and president of the Ratzinger Foundation. He served as director of the Holy See press office from 2006 to 2016.
Lombardi will serve as moderator for the Summit on the Protection of Minors.
The Rev. Thomas Rosica is chief executive officer of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, a Canadian media company. He is also a Catholic priest of the Congregation of St. Basil, and he’s served in various media roles for the Vatican since 2008.
Cardinal Charles Scicluna is the archbishop of Malta and an expert on the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis. He has been involved in reform efforts around the world and helped organized the February 2019 summit on child sex abuse.
Francis Sullivan served as CEO of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, a Catholic organization that worked with the Australian government from 2013 to 2018 to identify systemic failures and improve the church’s efforts to prevent child sex abuse. He’s spent most of his career in the health care field. Contact Sullivan through Gavin Abrahams, communications director for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
Andrea Tornielli is Editorial Director for the Vatican Dicastery for Communication. He is a former Italian journalist and author of numerous books on religion, with a special focus on Catholicism.
Myriam Wijlens is a professor of canon law at the University of Erfurt in Germany. She serves on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
The Rev. Hans Zollner, a Jesuit priest, is president of the Centre for Child Protection at Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He also serves on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and helped organize the February 2019 Summit on the Protection of Minors.