The Church must not now run away from the suffering that has been caused by sex abuse scandals.
By feeling the pain of the victims, the bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) say they will find ways to meaningfully address this greater evil of paedophilia and other forms of sexual violence around the world.
“Our first responsibility remains the victims, and the first act of love is to listen. Listen to what they have to say to us,” the AEC bishops said in a release following its just concluded 67th Annual Plenary Meeting (APM) held April 23–28, 2023 in Aruba.
During the week-long meeting, the AEC bishops committed to transforming the Church at every level to reflect the call to synodality by Pope Francis. This commitment to walk together shaped both the agenda and the approach of the entire meeting where sexual abuse, crime and violence, and solidarity with Haiti were discussed.
On the topic of sexual abuse, Fr Gerard McGlone of the Society of Jesus (Jesuit) questioned “How can this crushing [sex] scandal transform the Church so that it can once again be meaningful to the world?”
Using Ronald Rolheiser’s article ‘On Carrying the Scandal Biblically (2002)’ as a reference document, Fr McGlone reminded the AEC bishops that like Mary, “we must stand in love, pierced by the horror we witness.”
Standing still, Fr McGlone emphasised, is a sign of strength.
On crime and violence, the AEC bishops congratulated its government leaders for raising this issue to the level of a Public Health Crisis. The bishops maintained that the whole society has to work together, and listen to each other, especially the most vulnerable communities, to find the solutions that are necessary to unite against the “common enemy.”
The AEC bishops met virtually with the Episcopal Conference of Haiti, represented by its President, Archbishop Launay Saturne of Cap-Haïtien and four other bishops who spoke about the rampant crime situation that is spiralling out of control. The Haitian representatives lamented that although international leaders had convened many meetings focusing on Haiti, there was still no plan that resulted in a reduction in crime and the senseless violence.
According to the President, there are over 600,000 illegal weapons in Haiti. Haiti’s major immediate challenge was national security.
The representatives appealed for synodal support and care in the spheres of education, pastoral care, and integral development.
The release stated there was a great gratitude for the meeting and for the contact between the two Conferences of Bishops. The AEC Bishops committed to work together to unite the voices of all the Conferences of Bishops in the Caribbean – Haiti, Puerto Rico, Cuba and the AEC, and Latin America to advocate for support for Haiti.
After the scheduled election process, welcome was extended to the incoming Executive: President Archbishop Jason Gordon of Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, Vice President Bishop John Persaud of Mandeville, Jamaica and Treasurer Bishop Robert Llanos of St John’s Basseterre, Antigua. They were given the mandate to lead the bishops into a synodal way, inviting the whole people of God to deep listening while walking together.