efe-epaThe Vatican

The time has come to deliver justice to victims of sex abuse committed by the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church, the pope’s leading reformer and a member of the organizing committee set up by the pontiff to chart a way out of the abuse crisis told EFE in an exclusive interview published Tuesday.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna said that the unprecedented summit called by Pope Francis was not going to solve any problems during its three day duration this week at the Vatican and that it was likely to uncover more serious sex abuse cases, but insisted it was an important point from which to begin to tackle the scandal that has engulfed the church.

"It will serve to recognize that priests bear a very grave responsibility, that we must be held accountable and not only be aware of the seriousness of the cases but also of the very important duty we have to provide justice to the victims," he said.

Scicluna is a Canadian-born Maltese prelate of the Catholic Church who has been the Archbishop of Malta since 2015 and was appointed by the pope to return to Rome and be at the head of the summit with global church leaders.

Pope Francis wanted this implacable investigator into abuse and cover-ups who probed crimes perpetrated by the clergy in Chile to be at the heart of the Vatican.

Scicluna also investigated the violations committed by the late founder of the Legionaries of Christ, the Mexican priest Marcial Maciel.

He acknowledged to EFE the importance of the recent expulsion from the priesthood of the ex-cardinal and archbishop emeritus of Washington DC, Theodore McCarrick, but conceded it was not enough.

"The time has come for us to do justice and to go past the rules which already exist, such as the one that allows for the denunciation of bishops who have shown negligent behavior," he said.

For Scicluna there is no choice: "We need to face the cases and grievances that exist and take the necessary procedures," he said, adding, "there is no mercy without justice."

He said the pope wanted to make sure the church was aware of the need to give a credible response to grievances and concrete cases and to create clear guidelines for safeguarding all communities.

“Transparency is necessary because the people of God have to know what the obligations are, what the law is, what must be done to protect them, to whom they must go to expose abuse and what are the rights of the victims," he explained.

Scicluna added that all of this needed to be done in collaboration with civil authorities.

For the Maltese clergyman, this unprecedented meeting, in which some 190 people will participate – including 114 presidents of Episcopal Conferences from around the world – will serve to define the fight against abuse and to take it up "with force, greater consciousness and determination."

Scicluna revealed that most of the denunciations that have come before the Congregation for Doctrine the Faith were in the Spanish language.

This is explained because, "the majority of Catholics in the world speak Spanish," he said, and also because "it is a sign that in the Latin American and Spanish ecclesiastical world there is an awakening of the conscience of having to respond in a fair manner to the accusations."

The archbishop said he was due to receive a group of a dozen victims.

"We have felt the need to listen to them, to listen to their frustrations, their expectations and also their disappointments," he said, acknowledging they had very good reason to be angry with the Church.

Cristina Cabrejas