"The stones will cry out..."

By Simon Barrow
March 31, 2010

While the response of the Vatican to calls for change, investigation, admission and openness over child abuse scandals remains culpably defensive, other Catholics have been speaking and acting much more positively.

One example has been the move from the Catholic Church in Germany (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/11666) in launching a new telephone 'hot line' for victims of abuse, following similar successful ventures in Holland and Austria. The service will provide counselling, but can also refer callers, who may remain anonymous, to a lawyer. Cases involving children will be reported to the police.

Bishop Stephan Ackermann, who speaks on sexual abuse for the German Bishops' Conference, did not mince his words, either. Describing what had happened as "a crime" he admitted that the Church's silence in the past had been wrong, that the Church had been found "guilty". And he declared that, "We will do everything possible to make sure sexual abuse in the Catholic Church never happens again."

Critics have mostly recognised the move as genuine, though they rightly say that it is a first step - and want the service extended beyond several days a week to full time. They also want to ensure the independence of psychologists and counsellors involved from the institution.

Meanwhile, Catherine Pepinster, editor of the independent English Catholic weekly The Tablet also spoke about past collusion on BBC Radio 4's 'Thought for the Day' on 27 March 2010:

"The maker of a new film about the nuns of Tyburn Convent.. says that he has incorporated into his day an hour's quiet after he saw how the sisters lived with silence forming such a large part of their time.

"But there is another kind of silence that has also existed in the Catholic Church - a deeply-damaging silence - which meant that sex abuse of children by priests was kept hidden away.

"When courageous victims tried to speak out, they were ignored or even punished. Claim after claim tells of bishops responsible for abusive priests moving them around and doing little to help the victims.

"Accusation upon accusation has led to an unprecedented apology from Pope Benedict to the people of Ireland in which he expressed shame and remorse for what has happened. But for many it was still not enough.

Catholics attending Mass on Palm Sunday [have heard] Luke's Gospel story of Jesus's entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. As the crowd shouts in acclaim, the Pharisees tell him to silence his followers. But Christ says: "I tell you, if these keep silence the very stones will cry out".

"Now it seems as if the very stones are crying out about child abuse. The damaging silence has been swept aside; the truth must be spoken."

The full text of her 'Thought' is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/programmes/thought/documents/t20100327.shtml

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