Priests must side with abuse victims, says seminarian in Vatican paper

VATICAN CITY – To emerge from the sex abuse crisis, priests must make it clear that they are on the side of truth and the victims of abuse, said an article in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

The article, which appeared April 24, was written by Davide Russo, a young Italian seminarian studying at the Pontifical Regional Seminary in Molfetta, Italy. He said he and his fellow seminarians were “following with indignation and concern this sad affair” of revelations of the sexual abuse of minors by priests.

“We friends at the seminary have often asked ourselves how all of this could have happened, how is it that the same person could first celebrate the sacred mysteries and then carry out such a serious crime, taking advantage of children who, by nature, need to be defended, safeguarded, welcomed and protected? All of this causes me discomfort and unease,” he wrote.

Russo said a defensive attitude against critics does not help the church.

“Rather than side with those who feel sorry for themselves because they find themselves targeted by ‘snipers,’ concrete choices need to be made, credible signs that make it understood by everyone whose side we’re on,” he said.

“Who has erred must pay. We are on the side of the truth, we take up the defense of the victims of these atrocities, we start with them, we take care of them. There is no other solution,” he said.

The seminarian said the process, as with a surgeon making an incision, will be painful, but confronting the shame of those who abused is necessary “if we want to be consistent with what we profess.”

“They will just be pains of labor with a new beginning in sight,” he said.

Russo said part of the problem might be that priests have lost touch with the everyday world.

“If we do not enjoy good repute in the people’s eyes, so much so that often they tar everyone with the same brush, perhaps it is because we have lost contact with everyday people and with everyday life,” he said.

The answer is to start over with Christ and build one’s life based on his message of love, he said.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.