Coppola, who was appointed apostolic nuncio to Mexico on July 9, 2016, said that “sensitivity, care and efforts to prevent these crimes from being repeated has increased a lot.”
“In almost all the dioceses a Commission for the protection of minors has been created that, on the one hand, receives complaints and cares for the victims and on the other hand, is in charge of spreading the culture of prevention throughout the institutions and ecclesiastical structures,” he said.
“Also, on the seminary level there is greater care being taken in selecting those for admission and then the formation of the seminarians, so that the new priests are true shepherds according to the heart of Jesus and not people with unresolved psycho-affective problems,” he stressed.
Coppola said that “I can’t say that there is no longer any problem, but I recognize that a great effort has been made to keep abreast with what Pope Francis asks of the whole Church.”
This, he said, has happened “thanks to the sensitivity of many bishops and the courage of the victims who, by reporting abuse, have allowed us to realize the need to purify our presbyteries and our way of acting.”
Asked about what leads clerics to commit sexual abuse, the apostolic nuncio said that while not being a “specialist” in the matter, his impression “is that, when it comes to abuse of minors or vulnerable adults, there is a serious problem in the development of the personality of the abuser, who looks for asymmetrical relationships, which therefore are not for reasons of love but of power.”
This problem, he stressed, “cannot be overcome with only good will or the intention to change; it has been seen that, although in good faith the abuser promises to change, he ends up repeating the offense.”
For Coppola, it is “a deep psychological problem that must be cured and for this reason it is incompatible with the exercise of priestly ministry.”
“On the other hand, this also denotes an unresolved affective problem: If our heart is not full and overflowing, the person tries to fill himself with the love of the Lord in another way.”
“The most normal and natural thing is through another person, an adult like me, but there are also unhealthy ways to drown the problem in alcohol or to exercise power in a way contrary to the Gospel,” he pointed out.
Since 2019, Coppola has made his personal contact information available to people who wish to report cases of abuse in the Church. “It has struck me to hear from specialists, reports on damage to the brain and psychological damage reported by the victims, sometimes for many years if not for life,” the apostolic nuncio in Mexico said.
After lamenting that, “especially in past years, there was a certain superficiality and unawareness of the serious and lasting consequences of these abuses,” he noted that “the first thing to do is also train and inform our people from this point of view, all of them, the pastoral workers and all the people committed to the Church regarding the special care that children deserve.”
“On the other hand, we have to do a much better job at human and spiritual formation, which is the formation of the heart,” he stressed.
The prelate emphasized that true pastors must have “a heart that feels full to overflowing with the Lord and that therefore doesn’t feel the need to ‘steal’ attention, affection or pleasure from others.”
In contrast, he said a true pastor should feel “the need rather to share what he has received, giving attention and affection and making present with our poor person, as is our vocation, Jesus himself in his way of looking at others, of acting, of being present to them, giving life and not stealing it.”