The Italian Church speaks of a promising first step. Advocates for victims of sexual assault consider this a belated and insufficient gesture. On Thursday 17 November, the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) published the results of a first study on the sexual violence committed within it. Proposed as a pledge of goodwill by the ecclesiastical authorities in a country where the issue is confined to the margins of public debate, the report entitled “Protect, prevent, shape” cites 89 cases identified in Italian parishes since 2019.
However, its content is considered incomplete and its methodology questionable by Rete l’Abuso, the main association for the defense of victims of paedocriminal acts committed by members of the clergy. Its president, himself a former victim, Francesco Zanardi, 51, called him a“unsatisfactory and shameful”. Ludovica Eugenio, of the Coordination against abuses in the Catholic Church ItalyChurchToo, for her part deplored a “refuse to face the issue head-on from a systemic point of view”.
Published on the eve of the National Day of Prayer for victims and survivors of abuse, the report, which lists the activities of structures set up in Italian dioceses to address the issue of sexual violence, follows announcements made after his election in May in President of the CEI, by the archbishop of Bologna, Matteo Maria Zuppi. If the latter, close to Pope Francis, had then promised to do so “Do not remain silent in the face of so much suffering”, he has always rejected the idea of an independent commission on the model of the French Ciase, which delivered its report in October 2021 and whose statistical methods it criticized.
mgr Zuppi then mentioned two areas of research to be carried out on the basis of data collected only within the Church and over a limited period. Only the cases reported between 2001 and 2020 to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, a Vatican dicastery, should be taken into consideration, alongside those identified within the listening structures for victims set up by the Church itself. in Italy since 2019.
The report presented Thursday by Lorenzo Ghizzoni, archbishop of Ravenna and president of the National Service for the protection of minors of the CEI, focuses exclusively on the latter, delivering, in its terms “a first photograph”, which however looks both blurry and poorly framed. Entrusted to the researchers of the Piacenza section of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, the work was carried out on the basis of data provided by only 158 of the 226 Italian dioceses. The 89 cases of abuse recorded since 2019 mentioned in the report come from only 30 of the 90 counseling centres, moreover set up by the ecclesiastical authorities in a very heterogeneous way on the territory during the period considered.
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