Religious orders apologize for sex abuse inaction, cover-ups

 
 
Updated 2/19/2019 7:31 PM
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  • Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org group, holds up a photo of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the archbishop of Houston-Galveston and the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, during a press conference at the foreign press association in Rome, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. DiNardo has been accused by victims of downplaying their accusations against Rev. Manuel La Rosa-Lopez, who was charged in September with four counts of indecency with a child and has been criticized for allowing the Rev. John T. Keller, to celebrate Mass even though later in the day his name appeared on a list released by the church of credibly accused priests.

    Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org group, holds up a photo of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the archbishop of Houston-Galveston and the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, during a press conference at the foreign press association in Rome, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. DiNardo has been accused by victims of downplaying their accusations against Rev. Manuel La Rosa-Lopez, who was charged in September with four counts of indecency with a child and has been criticized for allowing the Rev. John T. Keller, to celebrate Mass even though later in the day his name appeared on a list released by the church of credibly accused priests. Associated Press

  • Members of the ECA (Ending of Clergy Abuse) organization and survivors of clergy sex abuse pose for photographers outside St. Peter's Square, at he Vatican, Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. Organizers of Pope Francis' summit on preventing clergy sex abuse will meet this week with a dozen survivor-activists who have come to Rome to protest the Catholic Church's response to date and demand an end to decades of cover-up by church leaders.

    Members of the ECA (Ending of Clergy Abuse) organization and survivors of clergy sex abuse pose for photographers outside St. Peter's Square, at he Vatican, Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. Organizers of Pope Francis' summit on preventing clergy sex abuse will meet this week with a dozen survivor-activists who have come to Rome to protest the Catholic Church's response to date and demand an end to decades of cover-up by church leaders. Associated Press

  • BishopAccountability.org group director Phil Saviano, left, and co-director Anne Barrett Doyle, attends a press conference at the foreign press association in Rome, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019.

    BishopAccountability.org group director Phil Saviano, left, and co-director Anne Barrett Doyle, attends a press conference at the foreign press association in Rome, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. Associated Press

  • BishopAccountability.org group director Phil Saviano, left, and co-director Anne Barrett Doyle, attend a press conference at the foreign press association in Rome, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019.

    BishopAccountability.org group director Phil Saviano, left, and co-director Anne Barrett Doyle, attend a press conference at the foreign press association in Rome, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. Associated Press

  • Barbara Dorris, survivor and former executive director, SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) attends the press conference "Voices of Faith, women's abuse survivors' group: Overcoming" at the Foreign Press association in Rome, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. Pope Francis is hosting a four-day summit on preventing clergy sexual abuse, a high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops around the world that the problem is global and that there are consequences if they cover it up.

    Barbara Dorris, survivor and former executive director, SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) attends the press conference "Voices of Faith, women's abuse survivors' group: Overcoming" at the Foreign Press association in Rome, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. Pope Francis is hosting a four-day summit on preventing clergy sexual abuse, a high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops around the world that the problem is global and that there are consequences if they cover it up. Associated Press

  • Doris Wagner, former nun, survivor, theologian and author, attends the press conference "Voices of Faith, women's abuse survivors' group: Overcoming" at the Foreign Press association in Rome, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. At left is Regina Franken-Wendelstorf, researcher, lecturer and former member of the Third Order of the Dominicans. Pope Francis is hosting a four-day summit on preventing clergy sexual abuse, a high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops around the world that the problem is global and that there are consequences if they cover it up.

    Doris Wagner, former nun, survivor, theologian and author, attends the press conference "Voices of Faith, women's abuse survivors' group: Overcoming" at the Foreign Press association in Rome, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. At left is Regina Franken-Wendelstorf, researcher, lecturer and former member of the Third Order of the Dominicans. Pope Francis is hosting a four-day summit on preventing clergy sexual abuse, a high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops around the world that the problem is global and that there are consequences if they cover it up. Associated Press

  • Doris Wagner, former nun, survivor, theologian and author, attends the press conference "Voices of Faith, women's abuse survivors' group: Overcoming", at the Foreign Press association in Rome, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. Pope Francis is hosting a four-day summit on preventing clergy sexual abuse, a high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops around the world that the problem is global and that there are consequences if they cover it up.

    Doris Wagner, former nun, survivor, theologian and author, attends the press conference "Voices of Faith, women's abuse survivors' group: Overcoming", at the Foreign Press association in Rome, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019. Pope Francis is hosting a four-day summit on preventing clergy sexual abuse, a high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops around the world that the problem is global and that there are consequences if they cover it up. Associated Press

VATICAN CITY -- Catholic religious orders around the world apologized Tuesday for having failed to respond when their priests raped children, acknowledging that their family-like communities blinded them to sexual abuse and led to misplaced loyalties, denial and cover-ups.

The two umbrella organizations representing the world's religious orders issued a joint statement ahead of Pope Francis' sex abuse prevention summit, which opens Thursday. They vowed to implement accountability measures to ensure that cover-ups by religious superiors end and that children are always safe in the presence of clergy.

With a few exceptions, religious orders have largely flown under the radar in the decades-long scandal, since the focus has been on how diocesan bishops protected their priests and moved them from parish to parish where they were free to abuse again.

Yet congregations such as the Jesuits, Salesians and Christian Brothers have some of the worst records, since they too moved abusers around and had easy access to young victims, since many orders specialize in running schools.

The Union of Superiors General represents the leadership of male religious orders, which count around 133,000 priests globally. The female branch, the International Union of Superiors General, represents some 500,000 religious sisters. They will each send around a dozen representatives to the Vatican sex abuse summit.

In the statement, the groups said they were ashamed at how they had failed the most vulnerable they were meant to serve and blamed "the strong sense of family" that their communities fostered for having blinded them to the warning signs.

"It resulted in a misplaced loyalty, errors in judgment, slowness to act, denial and at times, cover-up," they said. "We still need conversion and we want to change. We want to act with humility. We want to see our blind spots. We want to name any abuse of power."

To that end, the statement also condemned recent revelations of priests and bishops who sexually abused seminarians and nuns - an abuse of power that has largely gone unpunished since the victims are adults.

While noting the pope's summit is focused on the protection of minors, the groups pledged to find a response.

"This is a matter of grave and shocking concern," they said.

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