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Survivors and Advocates Demand ‘Zero Tolerance’ for Clergy Abuse in the Catholic Church

End Clergy Abuse (ECA), a global coalition of clergy abuse survivors and advocates, has put forth a compelling proposal for new legislation within the Catholic Church aimed at permanently removing abusive clergy and those who cover up these heinous acts. 

The suggested legislation, unveiled at a press conference in Rome on Monday, calls for the implementation of a universal Zero Tolerance law, binding all dioceses and churches to ensure the “permanent removal from the priesthood for any act of sexual abuse or participation in its institutional concealment.”

This call to action comes in the wake of a controversial appointment within the Vatican. Cardinal Victor Fernandez was recently appointed as the head of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF), responsible for investigating sexual abuse within the Church. The decision sparked outrage among campaigners, primarily due to Fernandez’s past mishandling of abuse cases.

Cardinal Fernandez has openly admitted to making mistakes during his tenure as bishop of the La Plata archdiocese in Argentina. Specifically, he initially failed to believe allegations made against priest Eduardo Lorenzo and allowed him to remain in ministry. Lorenzo was accused of sexually abusing five children, although he passed away before his case could reach court.

This is not the only instance of Fernandez favoring priests over alleged victims. Bishop Accountability, a resource dedicated to exposing abuse within the Catholic Church, has documented two other cases where the cardinal sided with priests in the face of allegations.

End Clergy Abuse, representing survivors and advocates from 25 countries, further alleges that Cardinal Fernandez defended and protected an abuser from the La Plata archdiocese, who victimized one of the group’s members.

The key point of contention is the failure to enforce a zero tolerance policy by Pope Francis. Despite repeated pledges to combat sexual abuse and its concealment within the Catholic Church, ECA argues that these commitments have not been upheld. They are demanding that the proposed legislation be introduced at the forthcoming Synod, with the aim of making the Church’s stance on this issue clear and unambiguous.

The proposed Zero Tolerance legislation aims to bring a swift end to the issue of abusive clergy within the Catholic Church. It calls for the immediate removal from the priesthood of any cleric found guilty of sexual abuse or actively involved in hiding such crimes. This legislation, if adopted, would be universally applicable across all dioceses and parishes, creating a standardized and non-negotiable approach to handling these grave matters.

The controversy surrounding Cardinal Fernandez’s appointment adds urgency to the need for such legislation. While it is essential to acknowledge the cardinal’s admission of past mistakes, the fact remains that his history raises concerns about his suitability to lead the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, an organization tasked with investigating sexual abuse.

End Clergy Abuse’s proposal, supported by survivors and advocates worldwide, seeks to rectify these concerns and prevent similar situations in the future. By introducing a binding and universal Zero Tolerance law, the Catholic Church can demonstrate its commitment to the eradication of sexual abuse within its ranks.

As the proposed legislation gains attention, the Catholic Church faces increasing pressure to take action against abusive clergy and those who protect them. 

The upcoming Synod will serve as a crucial platform for addressing this pressing issue and making decisive changes to protect the vulnerable and restore faith in the Church’s ability to address these serious concerns.

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