US Roman Catholic bishops have begun a week-long retreat in Mundelein, Illinois, to focus on the church's sexual abuse scandals. But the way they're doing it is causing a backlash.
The retreat comes as clergy abuse survivors are calling on Pope Francis to remove a Chicago cardinal from his role in an upcoming summit in Rome next month.
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, has been directly implicated in concealing child sex crimes by other clerics. He and his fellow Illinois bishops failed to report at least 500 predators.
"I want to express again the profound regret of the whole church for our failures to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse," Cupich said in a statement last month. "It is the courage of victim-survivors that has shed purifying light on this dark chapter in church history."
Despite the growing outrage over the widespread abuse in the Catholic Church, organizers of this week's retreat say they will focus on prayer and spiritual reflection rather than policy-making.
Such sentiments ring hallow for many abuse survivors.
"They say they're not going to talk about sexual abuse this week," said Peter Isley, founder of both Ending Clergy Abuse and Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP). "They're going to pray about it."
"Every time, these bishops have covered up sex crimes. And we now know there are at least 130 of them gathered there today in that seminary that have done just that," he charged.
Meanwhile, glaringly absent at this week's summit are the victims themselves.
"If you're going to invite those who have covered up child sex crimes to the summit, you'd better invite the victims of child sex crimes into that summit," Isley said.
The Associated Press reports the Illinois retreat is a prelude to a summit of the world's bishops at the Vatican next month to craft a more comprehensive response to the church sex abuse crisis.
"We're at a crossroads here, where there has to be recommitment to fidelity on the part of everybody in the church, and then honesty, which leads to credibility," Chicago's WGN9 quoted Father Rocky Hoffman of Relevant Radio.