Pope Francis Kicks Off Sex Abuse Summit in Rome

One by one, a dozen survivors shared their shattering tales of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy with high-ranking church officials gathered to listen to the stories they'd declined to hear for years.

"This past year has taught us that the systematic failures in holding clerics of all rank responsible are due in large measure to flaws in the way we interact and communicate with each other", said Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago.

In an interview with CBS News, Cupich said the last time a priest fathered a child in the Chicago archdiocese was almost 20 years ago, and that the children were provided financial support through college age.

And it was dominated by women.

Church leaders cannot think they can "keep silent until the storm has passed", Sister Openibo told them. "We must acknowledge that our mediocrity, hypocrisy and complacency have brought us to this disgraceful and scandalous place where we find ourselves as a church".

Hickey says, as a survivor of abuse, participating in the summit is a part of the healing process, but they can't help but be a bit skeptical of the whole thing.

"Our lack of response to the suffering of victims, yes even to the point of rejecting them and covering up the scandal to protect perpetrators and the institution, has injured our people", Tagle said. He said such transparency would be a first step toward restoring trust with the faithful.

"It is different in Italy because we have the Vatican just right here", he said.

Hundreds of victims have protested outside the Vatican, calling for justice and zero tolerance over the issue.

Among the marchers was Alberto Athie of Mexico, one of the original accusers of the pedophile founder of the Legion of Christ, the Rev. Marcial Maciel. The decades-long coverup of Maciel's well-documented crimes has been a stain on the legacy of St. John Paul II.

The report's authors said the figure was "the tip of the iceberg".

But on the third day of the Vatican's conference on child abuse on Saturday at least two of the archbishops attending gave out positive messages.

Openibo, the superior of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus religious order, told African and Asian church leaders they must no longer justify their silence about sexual violence by claiming that poverty and conflict are more serious issues for the church. She said she was groomed and ultimately abused by a Catholic priest who worked in her British Columbia parish in the early 1970s. These include the pontiff publicly botching a wellknown sex abuse cover-up case in Chile by initially giving it no credence. Francis had defended a bishop accused of witnessing and ignoring the abuse of a notorious predator, accusing the victims of 'slander'.

Alazraki, who has covered the Vatican since the pontificate of Pope Paul VI, urged greater transparency and offered advice about the growing revelations of nuns who have been sexually abused by priests and bishops.

The ongoing scandals touch many countries across the globe, with recent cases affecting Chile, Germany and the United States. "It could be a great opportunity for the church to take the initiative and be on the forefront of denouncing these abuses, which are not only sexual but abuses of power".

No survivors of clergy abuse are speaking in person at the summit, but the Vatican played recorded testimony from five victims yesterday. "You can not escape. You must endure it", he said.

Suicide is something Janet Patterson says many survivors at least attempt, thinking they're at fault for the abuse.

Participants seemed to share her appreciation for the summit. "And that is a crime", Rozzi said emphatically.

Any new agreed measures on clerical abuse are not expected to come until well after the summit, which winds up Sunday, February 24, with a speech by Francis. "We need to seek pardon".

  • Jon Douglas