Sunday, 29 May 2022

Catholic Child Abuse News - Will Italy's New Senior Cardinal Launch a Historical Child Abuse Enquiry?

Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy
President of the Italian Bishops' Conference
Cardinal Matteo Zuppi is the new president of Italy’s Catholic bishops’ conference | Catholic News Agency

The appointment by Pope Francis of Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna, to the powerful post of President of the Italian Bishops' Conference, raises the delicious possibility of another major investigation into historical sex abuses by Catholic Priest in a devoutly Catholic Country, and of course the likely haemorrhage of membership from the church and loosening of the Church’s grip on national politics when the truth is revealed, as was seen in France, Spain, Ireland and elsewhere.

Zuppi is regarded as a liberal and was appointed by the Pope when Italian Bishops declined the Pope's invitation to be given the power to elect their president from amongst themselves. This gives him power in Italy second only to the Pope, who as Bishop of Rome is also Primate of Italy. He is believed to have strong links with the Sant’Egidio Community - a liberal-leaning, humanitarian community which describes itself as:
Sant’Egidio is a Christian community born in 1968, right after the second Vatican Council. An initiative of Andrea Riccardi, it was born in a secondary school in the centre of Rome. With the years, it has become a network of communities in more than 70 countries of the world. The Community pays attention to the periphery and peripheral people, gathering men and women of all ages and conditions, united by a fraternal tie through the listening of the Gospel and the voluntary and free commitment for the poor and peace.

Although it doesn't mention LGBTQ issues on its website, the Sant’Egidio Community is believed to support an inclusive approach to members of the LGBTQ community.

Italian bishops have long resisted calls for an enquiry into the sexual abuses of children by Catholic clerics but recently, they agreed to launch an enquiry into abuses over the past 10 years, having rejected one going back 50 years. Obviously, they know they have much to fear from such a long historical period going back to a time before the historical abuse scandals swamped the church and prompted actions to prevent them; a time when deference and a code of silence allowed abuses to go unreported and the abusers to continue their predation without let or hindrance. Similar enquiries in other countries have usually revealed thousands of victims of hundreds of priests, nuns and monks in most Catholic diocese and institutions, and a culture of tolerance, cover-up, facilitation and bullying of victims who dared to complain.

Zuppi's rise has been relatively rapid, having been ordained in 1981 and serving as an auxiliary bishop in Rome. He was appointed bishop of Villanova by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 and Archbishop of Bologna by Pope Francis in 2015. He was made a cardinal by Pope Francis just 3 years ago, but he needs to tread carefully, as a too liberal approach with too much revelation of the murky world of Italian Catholicism, could alienate him from the powerful conservative wing of the Church which is especially strong in Italy, and that could scupper his chances of becoming the next Pope - a position for which he is currently regarded as a leading candidate.

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