The Vatican announced that Pope Francis would convene the presidents of the world’s episcopal conferences in Rome from Feb. 21-24 for a meeting dedicated to the issue of abuse in the Church. As many have demanded decisive action around recent scandals and crises, including the McCarrick revelations and the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the announcement of this gathering — slated to occur five months from now — might seem underwhelming, an example of just more talk. But this is where it’s important to understand how this pope views his role and ministry as successor of Peter.
With Pope Francis hearing from the presidents of conferences, laypeople who want to be heard must convey their concerns to their own bishops, who must likewise be candid with Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The call from the pews must not be ambiguous, and it must be communicated fervently. Bishops must be as equipped as possible with the sensus fidei (sense of the faith) to make the most of the model Pope Francis has invited them into.
In Episcopalis Communio, Pope Francis says a bishop must be “simultaneously a teacher and a disciple,” the latter requiring him to listen to what the Holy Spirit has inspired the laity to tell him. The five months till this meeting occurs are critical. Laypeople who want their Church to round a definitive corner on sexual abuse must speak out. They must continue to demand zero tolerance, full transparency, accountability and an end to the structures and practices that allowed abuse and cover-up to fester and perpetuated a Church where laypeople are seen as less than full members of the Body of Christ.
OSV Editorial Board: Don Clemmer, Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott Richert, York Young
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