AUSTIN, Texas - While the Vatican summit on clergy abuse marked a major turning point for the Catholic Church, many survivors felt the meeting of 200 religious superiors from around the world did not meet expectations. Pope Francis vowed to confront abusers with the “wrath of God.”
- Texas survivor made trip to Vatican for summit on clergy abuse
- Survivor described reaction to summit as "disappointing"
- Survivors to keep pressing Church for change
“They have the information they need to truly take action for zero tolerance. The Pope talked about zero tolerance, but talking about it is not enough,” said Carol Midboe, the Austin support group leader, for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
Midboe is back in town after attending the historic four-day summit with other survivors of sexual abuse. To describe how she felt leaving the summit in one word, Midboe said she was “disappointed.”
“We were hopeful that this time that we would see concrete actions taken and action provided with a timeline at the end of the summit and that didn’t happen,” Midboe said. “We’ve heard this rhetoric before from the Church.”
Survivors were in Rome sharing their stories and pushing for a change in policies. The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests and other organizations presented a list of demands for the church, including the removal of those involved in cover-ups and the implementation of procedures so abuse is reported first to law enforcement. Midboe said, while “survivors felt heard” they did not believe action would be taken.
“We expected that they would fire bishops and known clergy who have abused children to be removed from ministry. That’s how you protect children. That's how you maintain safe congregations,” Midboe said.
Midboe said, though, what made the trip worth it was meeting other survivors. When Midboe reported being abused by a priest, she said she was told to ignore it and move on in silence. She believes when survivors speak out, they can eliminate the stigma around sexual abuse.
“It helps to know that you’re not alone, and that there are people who understand what you’re going through and that there are other people who have fought the similar battles with their church organizations and their communities,” Midboe said. “Oftentimes, there’s a shunning, an ostracism, or a shaming of the person that’s reporting.”
The Vatican announced it would issue a new law creating a child protection policy for Vatican City State. Pope Francis also wants to change church law regarding child pornography, raising the age to 18 for victims.
In the meantime, Midboe said survivors will continue support each other, advocate for change, and push for investigations in their local communities.
“[The Pope] set an example for the world, that we need to have these difficult conversations,” Midboe said.