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Walking with ‘suffering Christ’ means standing with victims, says priest

Institutional Trauma Hans Zollner

Title: Walking with ‘suffering Christ’ means standing with victims, says priest

Author: Michelle Martin

Publisher: Catholic News Service via The Catholic Sun

Date: 12MAR2020

CHICAGO (CNS) — Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, one of the world’s leading experts on safeguarding minors, said the church is suffering “institutional trauma” from clerical sexual abuse, trauma that it must learn to integrate into its theology and understanding of salvation if it is to overcome it.

He visited the Archdiocese of Chicago March 1-3 to speak with seminarians, clergy and members of religious congregations on “The Present Status of Safeguarding in the Church,” which also was the topic of his March 2 DePaul University talk.

Fr. Zollner, a German, is a licensed psychologist and psychotherapist with a doctorate in theology, the president of the Center for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and a consultor to the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy.

He was one of four leaders appointed by Pope Francis to organize the February 2019 summit on abuse for the presidents of episcopal conferences.

In his presentation, Fr. Zollner compared the church to an individual suffering from trauma who tries to wall it off, keeping it separate from everyday life. That can work well for a time, he said, but eventually the wall develops cracks, the trauma bleeds through and the person suffers flashbacks, reliving rather than simply remembering the traumatic event.

“My theory is that is happening in the Catholic Church now,” the priest said. “What has been hidden is coming out now, but that brings out the whole history.” Fr. Zollner said.

“The pope didn’t address it as a matter of dealing with this priest, or with the archbishop and former archbishop of Santiago,” he said. “All of them knew something about the abuse that was going on. For the first time, this pope addressed this as an institutional, a structural, a systemic issue.”

As of now, Fr. Zollner said, eight Chilean bishops have been removed from office and two have been dismissed from the clerical state, as has Karadima.

That summer, the U.S. church was rocked by accusations that then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, had abused several children and seminarians in past years; he was laicized in February 2019. Also in the summer of 2018 was the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

In Australia, meanwhile, Cardinal George Pell was convicted on five counts related to the sexual abuse of two boys decades earlier. His final appeal is set to be heard sometime this March.

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