Will Catholic Church Change?
There is no doubt that at long last, the Catholic Church has heard the message that survivors and others have been crying out for decades. There is a serious problem with clerical sex abuse and something – a lot – needs to change.There are signs that change is finally happening. But serious questions exist still about whether reforms, taking place both here in England and Wales, to Canon Law in Rome and elsewhere around the globe, go far enough.
We can hope that the shock resignation of Cardinal Reinhard Marx, leader of Germany’s Catholic bishops – a resignation yet to be accepted by Pope Francis – might have some effect. For him to take such a radical step away from the vocation as priest and bishop that he loves, shows just how seriously he is taking the crisis, and how he at least understands the threat it represents to the Church on so many levels, not least its very credibility.
In his letter to Pope Francis, Cardinal Marx, wrote: “My impression is that we are at a ‘dead end’ which, and this is my paschal hope, also has the potential of becoming a ‘turning point’. Of course, the ‘paschal faith’ also applies to our pastoral care as bishops: For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will find it.”
In England and Wales, the Catholic bishops are in the final stages of implementing the reforms of the Elliott Review, set up in 2019, which will bring the Church’s safeguarding in line with what is expected by the Charity Commission. A new Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency has been set up, chaired by former crown prosecutor Nazir Afzal, a top lawyer with an impressive record who the Church is lucky to have. The intention is to fully take on board and act the recommendations of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, which heard damning evidence about the Catholic Church.