The hierarchies of Catholicism feel "in a state of siege", in the words of one of the bishops who this morning is locked up with his colleagues in the plenary assembly that the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) celebrates all the autumns. The meeting will last until Friday and does not include any debate on pedophile scandals on its agenda.
They will talk about the issue, without a doubt, but they will do it behind closed doors, with the hope that they do not transcend the different positions of their members or the agreements they may reach. The slogan of the Vatican is that the reforms that must be taken to put an end to the scourge of child abuse Pope Francis will announce them after meeting with the presidents of the 113 Episcopal Conference of the Latin rite, summoned to Rome from February 21 to 24.
Francisco's concern is that some positions of his hierarchies further aggravate the loss of prestige of the Church. In Spain, for example, there are bishops who say that there is no case to justify the alarm of society, but rather well-orchestrated anti-clerical campaigns. Against this perception, dismissed as frivolous and irresponsible by other prelates, last Thursday the Spanish Confederation of Religious (CONFER) rose, which closed that day its annual general assembly.
"I have the impression that allegations of abuse will grow, we are only at the beginning. We've been hiding for 70 years; It has been a terrible mistake, "said Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Religious Life, before some congregations that gather 64,135 friars and nuns and manage more than two thousand schools with 1,204,179 students.
Among the things that in the past "went wrong," the prefect (minister) of Pope Francis pointed to the case of the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Marcial Maciel. "Since 1943, the Vatican had documents about their behavior. The one who covered it was a mafia, they were not Church, "he said. EL PAÍS unveiled these documents in the 1990s and was accused of anticlericalism by prelates who were covering up the famous sexual predator.
Religious men and women dedicated to education, with numerous cases of abuse in their centers, feel marked and even paralyzed, without knowing how to deal with the loss of prestige they face. "Let's not let this crisis immobilize us. It is true that now many people tell us that we are all pedophiles, but from here we will be converted perhaps as a smaller Church, but also more correct, "the Pope's envoy requested.
Nobody doubts that the problem of abuses demands radical internal changes. At the moment, the response of the EEC is the creation of a commission of legal experts. Some of its members have been accused of cover-ups. This is the reason why several bishops arrive today in the plenary with a critical spirit. Opposite, there are others who criticize on the contrary, that is, for letting themselves be dragged down by means of communication that want to discredit them. It is the majority position in the EEC. Curiously, cases of pedophilia are being used in the bitter battle being waged between supporters of the Argentine pope and his detractors, who in Spain are many and remarkable.
Aging of the clergy
Among their concerns, however, is the absence of young people in their churches and the aging of the entire organization. The average age of the bishops is 65 years. The Pope exceeds 80, and also more than half of the Spanish cardinals. On the bottom, the situation is not better. More than half of the priests who attend the 23,000 Spanish parishes were born in the 1940s and formed seminars where they entered as children in which they were taught that the priest is a God on Earth; freedom, a danger; sex, sin; the woman, the devil; and the world, a valley of tears.
There is another problem. What can young people learn from their elders, mostly "self-conscious" as Catholics? The president of the Catholic Association of Propagandists (ACPP) and the San Pablo CEU University Foundation, Alfonso Bullón de Mendoza, asked him on Friday at the opening of the twentieth Catholic and Public Life Congress, which brought together a thousand people in Madrid of people. The Center for University Studies (CEU) is a power in the field of education, with half a dozen universities and dozens of colleges, vocational training centers or business schools. The director of the congress, the journalist Rafael Ortega, read a message from the Pope to the congressmen: "I invite you to be able to dream and spread dreams and hopes".