Cardinal Urosa Savino: An Appeal for Spiritual Renewal of the Clergy

COMMENTARY: The archbishop emeritus of Caracas, Venezuela, shares with the Register his hopes for this week’s Vatican summit on the ‘Protection of Minors in the Church’

Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino
Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino (photo: Edward Pentin photo)

From February 21st to 24th there will be a very important bishops’ meeting in Rome. 

In recent years there have been many scandals of sexual abuse of minors by priests, religious and even some bishops and cardinals. 

Given the gravity of the problem, Pope Francis wisely decided to convoke an extraordinary episcopal meeting to address the problem, and to look for solutions. 

To this meeting have been invited the bishop presidents of the 115 episcopal conferences of the whole world, and the heads of the Oriental Catholic Churches. Also the heads of some Roman dicasteries will attend the meeting, as well as delegates of the confederations of consecrated life, and some cardinals and bishops invited by the Holy Father.


Themes of the Meeting

Four days will not be enough to solve this major problem. But in this meeting, with prayer and reflection, listening to some victims, interchanging experiences, and with some lines of action, it will be possible to outline some measures and take decisions that may help to stop and prevent the problem, and to promote the purification and renewal of the clergy and consecrated people.

Three themes will be addressed: the accountability of bishops and superior generals concerning cases of sexual abuse of minors; the need for transparency, that is, “no cover-up” of cases; establishing lines of action and measures to prevent these cases, and to sanction those guilty of sexual abuse.

The summit will be celebrated in a climate of prayer and reflection for seeking solutions. 

That spiritual and religious environment will allow necessary study of the deep causes of the phenomenon of sexual abuse of minors by priests and consecrated men that has deeply shocked and hurt the Church. It is important to study and attack the problem of clericalism, understood here as the abuse of power by clergy and religious, which surrounds the sexual abuse of minors.

And it is important to address also the problem of the sexual abuse itself, which is a sinful transgression of God’s law, and a failure to observe and to live the virtue of chastity consecrated to Our Lord, broken by immoral and criminal sexual activity. 

It is necessary also to face the problem of homosexuality in some clergy and religious, as many studies show that about 80% of the abuse has affected male minors. The large number of accusations of sexual abuse also indicates a decline or fall in necessary high standards of moral life in those individuals in both the clergy and consecrated life.


Spiritual Renewal and Chastity

I think this extraordinary assembly has to make an intense and positive call to spiritual renewal of all of us, men of the consecrated life, and ministers of the altar. 

The current situation demands that we renew our consecration to God in response to the beautiful vocation we received to follow Our Lord and to imitate St. Paul. And of course, I think the meeting will have to make a pressing appeal to the superiors of seminaries and religious houses of formation. 

It is necessary to insist on the right teaching about Christian sexuality, the beauty of celibacy and perfect chastity and its motivations; fidelity to Our Lord, prudence and wisdom to avoid and overcome temptations. 

The superiors of seminaries and religious houses of formation must be prudent and, at the same time, firm in training well those who have an authentic vocation to celibacy, and to send away those who don’t have that vocation.

This assembly should call us, ministers of the Lord and consecrated men, towards a more faithful, elevated and authentic observance of the consecration to God in perfect chastity. 

In this materialistic, erotic, and relativistic age, which rejects norms, rules and moral limits, we have been called to be real witnesses of the Kingdom of God, of the total love of Christ to the Church, his spouse, and of the future kingdom of Heaven. 

So, may this important meeting make an intense appeal to all priests and consecrated people for our necessary spiritual renewal. 

We all must embrace joyfully St. Paul’s pressing call to spiritual renewal (Ephesians 4:17-5:3). “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds” (Ephesians 4:23).

Caracas, February 13, 2019