Everyone within the Catholic Church, from the bishops to the laity, are called to work together to stop clerical sexual abuse, according to one of Mexico’s top bishops.
Mexican Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera Lopez of Monterrey, the president of Mexico’s bishops’ conference, spoke to Crux about the Feb. 21-24 Vatican summit on the protection of minors.
“I would highlight three themes [from the meeting]: The responsibility we have as bishops, but also that of the Church in general, to fight against the abuse of minors; the importance of accountability to God, the Church, civil justice and society; and the importance of good communication, so that people know what is happening,” Cabrera Lopez said. “This way, they can help us find a solution to these criminal acts that are always reprehensible: Harming boys and girls.”
The leadership of the Mexican bishops’ conference was welcomed by Pope Francis on Friday, five days after the end of the summit on the protection of minors.
Cabrera Lopez spoke with Crux hours after the encounter with Francis, discussing not only the protection of minors, but also the migrant caravans currently entering Mexico trying to reach the United States, even revealing that the pontiff donated half a million dollars to help the 120 Homes for Migrants that the Catholic Church has across the country.
What follows are excerpts of that conversation.
Crux: Together with the rest of the leadership of the Mexican bishops’ conference, you met with Pope Francis for some 30 minutes on Friday. What can you tell us about that meeting?
Cabrera Lopez: It was a very cordial encounter. The Holy Father is always extremely kind and trusting with us. We were able to express our concerns, he shared some of his, and in the end, we shared a beautiful prayer to Our Mother, the Virgin of Guadalupe, thinking particularly about the victims of sexual abuse, so that she helps heal their wounds and helps us act with the utmost responsibility.
What were the concerns you shared with the pope?
First of all, we presented him with a global pastoral project that we did as a bishops’ conference, responding to a request he’d made to us when he was in the cathedral of Mexico City back in 2016. After that, we also addressed some important issues for Mexico: The new migrant situation, with the caravans that are coming from Central America, the responsibility that we have as a Church against this new phenomenon and how the Migrant Homes are working, and the pacification of Mexico with the generalized wave of violence currently affecting our nation.
We also talked about priests and their formation, and I shared with him my thoughts after the summit on the protection of minors that we had this weekend. The Holy Father encouraged us to continue working on this issue, paying particular attention to prevention so that we don’t have any more criminal situations of this nature, that hurt the Church so much.
What can you tell us about the Feb. 21-24 meeting?
The meeting had four moments that for me were all very important. First there was prayer. We also heard from survivors, some whom addressed us in person, others through video, remaining more anonymous. Their witness was impressive, and they moved all of us, rendering us speechless. Then there were the “prepared” speeches, including one from a Mexican journalist, all of which were very important. We also had the work of the smaller groups, that were an echo of what was discussed in the assembly, and last but not least, the discussions in the plenary meetings, that were also very fruitful.
I would highlight three themes: The responsibility we have as bishops, but also that the Church in general has to fight against the abuse of minors; the importance of accountability to God, the Church, civil justice and society; and the importance of good communication, so that people know what is happening. This way, they can help us find a solution to these criminal acts that are always reprehensible: Harming boys and girls.
What is the role of the laity in the Church’s fight against clerical sexual abuse of minors?
The bishop cannot do this alone. Lay men and women have to be included in the commissions and given the freedom to investigate, to be able to advise, to propose ways of prevention, and of course, to help us take into account the people of God who pray for us, who are shocked by the crimes committed and that also sometimes shows its understandable annoyance before this reality.
It’s fundamental that we are all involved when it comes to the protection of minors. The media too plays a key role in guaranteeing that justice is done, that we have an adequate vision of the problem and also that, when they feel we have failed to act accordingly, survivors and their families have the opportunity to make a public complaint to help them resolve their situation.
The summit was an encounter that marks a special moment in the history of the Church: There’s never been a meeting of this nature with such a specific topic to address such an important problem, headed by the Holy Father.
You mentioned discussing with Pope Francis the issue of the migrant caravans coming from Central America and going through Mexico, in an attempt to reach the United States. What is the Church doing concretely?
The Catholic Church in Mexico is outside any political and strategic discussions. We are serving the people, through our Homes for Migrants. We have more than 120 houses throughout the country, and we’re talking both with the local and federal governments as much as possible to guarantee humane solutions to the crisis, so that this situation that is still so difficult, is resolved, especially when the people can’t reach the destination they had set as their goal: The United States.
Mexico is an intermediate stage and we have to serve people well. We do not promote migration: It reaches us and as Catholics we have to respond in the best possible way.
On this, I must say that we are very grateful for the initiatives of the Holy Father and that he has assumed as his own responsibility the issue of migration, which doesn’t only affect Mexico, as it has a global character. We feel very supported, not only by the words of the pope, but also by his concrete help, since he has donated $500,000 to distribute among the Homes for Migrants.