Women and lay people are critical to solving the crisis of sex abuse within the Church, the Bishop of Plymouth said during a strongly-worded intervention at Synod.
He also called for bishops to be held accountable for how they review cases of sex abuse, and said that lay experts and statutory authorities must be a routine part of how the Church reviews cases.
Speaking to Pope Francis and Synod Fathers in Rome on Thursday 11 October, Bishop Mark O’Toole called on the Church to embrace more deeply “the Marian dimension”.
The Church has within itself all it needs to heal the wounds of the present crisis, Bishop O’Toole said, recalling Pope St John Paul II’s apostolic letter on the genius of women.
“Mothers, including consecrated women who are spiritual mothers among us, can help us to be tender and loving to the young, whilst also protecting the little ones from the wolves, and so ridding the Church of this evil,” he said.
“This, in turn, can be a service of healing and lead to the prevention of this, and other forms of abuse, which have been shared so poignantly by many brother bishops and others, and which are so widespread in our countries.”
In his intervention, given during the Synod on youth, the bishop said that the abuse crisis had done serious harm to the Church’s credibility and authenticity.
“Young people rightly expect that we put victim survivors at the centre of what we do,” he said.
He went on: “Lay experts, and just statutory authorities, are an essential part of how we review such situations, in order to make assessments with us, of these difficult matters. This is also true for us Bishops. We, too, must be subject to processes as robust as those we would expect for our priests.”