The Catholic church for centuries has been a monolith organisation that never judged the conduct of its clergy. Over the decades scandals surrounding the conduct of priests all over the world have been reported but the church has always closed ranks and denied them. Last year in far away India the Bishop of Punjab was accused of raping a nun repeatedly. After some turmoil, he was arrested and is now facing trial but the Church again has closed ranks and come out in favour of the bishop and is reportedly harassing the nuns who filed the complaints.

ABC News has now reported that after thousands of cases of clerical sexual abuse (including those against minors) an unprecedented summit has been called to discuss the issue.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis has recognised the problem which for too long has been denied by the church. He has said that the Catholics are not looking for a simple condemnation but concrete action. Nearly 200 Catholic leaders have gathered in Vatican city. The Pope who heads the Catholic faith has said that all of the assembled may lend an ear to the holy spirit and the "cry of the small ones who are asking for justice".

Allegations of exploitation by the priests of young children are one of the causes of holding this unprecedented summit. CNN has reported that the summit will include two speeches by Pope Francis and in addition, small groups of Bishops will be holding group discussions.

The Catholic church has shown that it can change with the times and all credit must go to Pope Francis of having recognised the problem of sexual misconduct and exploitation of minors which has been heard from all over the world.

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Celibacy

The Catholic faith insists on celibacy for its priests and nuns who form the backbone of the faith and it requires a strong moral strength not to be tempted. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a plethora of sexual misconduct cases that have been reported every year. The Pope will be discussing this aspect of priesthood. There is widespread evidence that sexual exploitation is rampant in many religions, some time back a Hindu Tantrik was sentenced to 25 years jail for seducing a disciple.

Way forward

The Pope must, however, be congratulated for accepting there is a problem and it needs to be addressed. After the Pope spoke the assembled church leaders watched video testimonies from several victims some of them as young as 15 who claimed they were abused by priests. Earlier the Pope had also spoken out against gender disparity.

A conference of the clergy by itself may not solve the problem but it's a step forward. However, to change the mindset of the clergy will not be an easy task.

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