Annual Keeley Vatican Conference addresses sexual abuse in the Catholic Church // The Observer

Reverend Hans Zollner delivered this year’s annual Keeley Vatican Lecture Tuesday evening at the Eck Visitor Center. The annual conference aims to deepen “Our Lady’s bond with the Holy See by bringing prominent Vatican officials to Our Lady to explore issues concerning Our Lady’s Catholic mission.”

The subject of his lecture was the sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church. Zollner is a German Jesuit priest, theologian and licensed psychotherapist who focuses on the prevention and healing of childhood sexual abuse. He is also a professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Reverend Hans Zollner gives a lecture on the problem of sexual abuse of minors in the church.

Zollner argued that the problem of sexual abuse is widespread in the Church and is rampant in countries around the world.

“It’s so uncomfortable, but true, because we don’t realize how much of the trauma of victims of abuse is in our minds,” Zollner said.

Many people inside and outside the church are aware of the problem, Zollner said, but he feels awareness hasn’t sparked enough action.

“Make it your own, not just as an intellectual exercise, not just to better understand some aspect of something you’re putting on with your tribe,” Zollner said. “We can’t keep listening to the same words over and over again, we have to own them and act on them.”

“It involves becoming aware of our own reactions, human, administrative and spiritual,” he said.

Zollner said the victims of these accounts are hurt in extremely detrimental ways. He mentioned that other Catholics also face disgust and struggle with faith in the institution, like the victims themselves. These heartfelt human reactions make it all the more important to talk about the issue properly, Zollner said.

Zollner argued that, as with many scandals, misconceptions surround the sexual abuse crisis in the Church. He said that, for starters, celibacy is not to blame for abuse.

“There is no evidence that celibacy, as such, leads to abusive behavior. Other components around it, yes, can contribute, but not much,” Zollner said.

Zollner also pushed back against the idea that the problem lies with gay priests.

“Again, sexuality as such does not lead to abuse. Other components may contribute, but not sexuality per se,” Zollner said.

Zollner also addressed those who instinctively deny sexual abuse allegations. Whenever sexual abuse comes up, not just in the context of the Church, there are people who claim that the majority of it is false allegations. Zollner sought to clarify this.

“I asked the question to the person responsible for disciplinary sanctions, the foundation of the doctrine. A while ago I asked him, John, to tell me how many false allegations are coming to your desk and he’s seen them since 2002,” Zollner said. “And he responded, literally, very, very little.”

Zollner explained how people look to the Church for comfort. Priests stand out in society, Zollner said, but lately they have let people down.

“You stand for a church that proclaims the gospel of salvation, not suffering,” Zollner said. “When we celebrate the liturgy, we proclaim something different and people expect us to behave accordingly.”

Due to the attention the issue has received, attempts have been made to remedy the problem. There have been new safeguard guidelines and new laws that have sought to address the crisis. Zollner called these recent moves accomplishments, but he said they weren’t enough. He called on the Church to change not only its laws, but its attitudes.

“A relatively great deal has happened in the last few years in the Church. But that’s not enough,” Zollner said. “There also needs to be a change in attitude.”

“You have to own it ourselves,” Zollner said. “Everyone of us in this room and online should think for a moment, now or later tonight, what can you do, what can I do, so that we can be a safer place, a safer society. and a safer church.

Tags: Catholic, Church, Keeley Vatican Conference, priesthood, sexual abuse, Vatican, victims

Angela C. Hale