Since 2002 Msgr Scicluna has been investigating cases of sexual abuse for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, at first under Cardinal Ratzinger. Scicluna gathered the evidence against Maciel and spoke to numerous victims, They and Jason Barry have a high opinion of his honesty, sincerity, and sympathy.
Like all the others – Jason Barry, Tom Doyle, Richard Sipe, myself – who began looking into sexual abuse in the Church, he had no idea of what he was getting into or how it would change his life.
When the question about what it had meant in terms of his life path, to be involved in these huge scandals, is asked, his face turns serious: “I understood that the Church did not crumble, despite these scandals, and this is precisely because its foundations are supernatural. There is no other way to explain it.”
Some seek to minimize the effects of abuse or to compare it to abuse by a coach or teacher.
Scicluma used strong words to underline the fact that violence shown towards minors by clergymen constitutes “an abuse of spiritual power”. “Yes, it is true – adds the Maltese prelate – there is a specific difference between repeated abuse by a lay person and that carried out by a priest, on victims that expect to see in them the figure of the “good shepherd”. Scicluna’s face darkens and he looks saddened. “If a priest commits the abuse, the trauma caused to the victim is even deeper, the spiritual trust that existed is destroyed and a person’s faith is lost.”
We ask the “promoter of justice” whether the change in mentality that Benedict XVI has asked for, is taking root in the Church. “I believe – he says in a faint voice – that a change in mentality is only possible for those who have the courage to meet the victims of abuse, to welcome them and to listen to their stories. If this does not happen, one may have read up on every detail of the scandal, be fully prepared, but that person will not be able to fully comprehend the trauma that these immense sins cause. The reaction and anger expressed by the victims of priests is unlike that found in any other type of case, because it comes from deep within the soul”.
Scicluna seems to suspect and fear that the bishops still don’t get it, but hopes they will.
For this reason, reveals Scicluna, the bishops that will be participating in the seminar in February 2012 will need to have met with the victims of paedophile priests in their respective countries, prior to attending. “It is a traumatic experience that is life changing, as in my case. Thanks to God, to the strict laws that are in place and to the development of a new conscience, these cases have decreased dramatically compared to previous years. We need to continue to support the victims who have for so long been seen as “threats” to the good name of the Church, instead of being treated as individuals who have been wounded in their innermost soul. We need to welcome and help these victims ensuring above all that the traumatic experiences they have been through are not repeated”.
I am less hopeful – it will take a massive shock, far greater than the ones we have experienced, to change the hearts of the clerical careerists who infest – perhaps dominate – the hierarchy of the Church.