The US ambassador to the Vatican met Friday with survivors of clergy sexual abuse, saying she hopes a historic summit at the Vatican this week will lead to a “renewed commitment” in the Catholic Church to end the scourge of clergy sexual abuse.
“President Trump takes this issue very seriously and has expressed his sadness at the allegations of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church,” Ambassador Callista Gingrich said in a statement. “The United States Embassy has engaged senior Vatican officials on this matter and will continue to do so.”
Dozens of survivors of sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic clergy are in Rome this week to protest and offer testimonies about their experiences outside of an unprecedented summit in Vatican City, where nearly 200 church leaders have been convened by Pope Francis.
The four-day summit has included a speech by the Pope, talks outlining best practices and small-group discussions among bishops.
The abuse survivors who met with Gingrich for about an hour are all from the group Ending Clergy Abuse. Peter Isely, a leader of the group, said they pressed the ambassador to help them convince the Justice Department to mount an investigation of the Catholic Church in the United States.
US attorneys in New York and Pennsylvania have opened federal investigations into the church, but for years survivors of clergy abuse have pressed for Justice Department officials in Washington to put the department’s full law enforcement power behind a federal probe of the church nationwide.
Isely also said the survivors pushed back when Gingrich described the Vatican summit this week as a “good start.”
“We said it would have been a good start 30, 20, 10 and even five years ago and that’s being very, very generous.”
Tim Law, another survivor who attended the meeting, said he told Gingrich that her job is to represent their interests, not the Vatican’s.
Gingrich’s representatives did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
“It is my hope that the Holy See will emerge from this … summit with a renewed commitment to ending clerical sexual abuse,” Gingrich said in the statement.