This unsigned editorial appeared in the Feb. 18 edition of America, a weekly Jesuit publication.

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“Cunctando regitur mundus”: “By delay is the world ruled.” This ancient Latin aphorism has long been a guiding principle of the practice of “romanita,” the art of getting things done in the Eternal City. In a church that tends to measure time in centuries, patience to wait for the right moment to act is indeed important.

The U.S. Catholic bishops and their flock got a taste of how romanita works before and during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ meeting last November in Baltimore, when Pope Francis asked them to table a vote on new sex abuse reforms until after the worldwide meeting of the presidents of the bishops’ conferences of the Catholic Church in Rome planned Feb. 21-24.

Pope Francis and his advisers, it seemed, did not want the U.S. bishops to act unilaterally or rashly on an issue with worldwide implications.

Now that the Vatican meeting is finally upon us, hopes are high (perhaps too high) that the summit will bring about significant and lasting change in the church’s approach to the plague of sex abuse and its cover-up.

We pray for those gathered in Rome and urge them to remember that this is no longer a time for waiting. The church needs strong and unequivocal guidelines for the prevention of abuse and justice for the abused, a public declaration that the rights of victims have priority and legislative action to ensure that no one in the church, even bishops and cardinals, is above the law.

Sometimes by transparency and decisive action is the world ruled.

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