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Pope defensive on sex abuse as commission lags



Published: Thu, March 6, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

Associated Press

VATICAN CITY

Pope Francis is coming under increasing criticism that he simply doesn’t get it on sex abuse.

Three months after the Vatican announced a commission of experts to study best practices on protecting children, no action has been taken, no members appointed, no statute outlining the commission’s scope approved.

Francis hasn’t met with any victims, hasn’t moved to oust a bishop convicted in 2012 of failing to report a suspected abuser, and on Wednesday insisted that the church had been unfairly attacked on abuse, using the defensive rhetoric of the Vatican from a decade ago.

Victims’ advocates said his tone was archaic and urged Francis to show the same compassion he offers the sick, the poor and disabled to people who were raped by priests when they were children.

“Under Pope Francis, the Vatican continues to deny its role in creating and maintaining a culture where upholding the reputation of the church is prioritized over the safety of children,” said Maeve Lewis, executive director of the Irish victims’ support group One in Four.

To be sure, Francis adores children like a father — it’s on display every Wednesday during his general audience — and he has continued to defrock pedophile priests. But unlike Pope Benedict XVI, he rarely has spoken out about abuse, indicating it clearly has not been a priority in his first year as pope.


Comments

1JudyJones(148 comments)posted 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)

The pope said he is “offended.” Apparently, he's not really offended by Catholic officials who transfer predators and keep secrets and endanger kids. He's offended by the “hype” around his papacy.

We feel the same way, even more now that he has shown his 'true colors' on the church's on-going clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis.

The Associate Press reports that:

“Pope Francis is coming under increasing criticism that he doesn't get it on sex abuse. Three months after the Vatican announced a commission of experts to study best practices on protecting children, no action has been taken, no members appointed, no statute outlining the commission's scope approved.

Francis hasn't met with any victims, hasn't moved to oust a bishop convicted of failing to report a problem priest, and on Wednesday insisted that the church had been unfairly attacked on abuse, using the defensive rhetoric of the Vatican from a decade ago.”

When he says that abuse has left "very deep wounds" on victims, the pope is deliberately framing the scandal as something that's largely in the past – by focusing on already hurt victims, not on still-vulnerable children. This is good public relations but it's not reality. While many clergy sex crimes have been disclosed in the West, far fewer cover ups have been, and little of either has been disclosed in the developing world. No matter how hard Catholic officials may try to depict this scandal as “in the past,” it's very much a part of the church right now.

Inadvertently, Pope Francis has done our movement to protect children a service. For months, many have assumed he would sooner or later get around to taking action to safeguard the vulnerable in the church. Over and over, we heard well-meaning Catholics and commentators say “Give him time, he's new,” “He's improving Vatican governance first,” “He's got to tackle internal leaks first,” “Streamlining church bureaucracy is his top priority,” and “He can't do everything at once.”

Now, there's more clarity and less doubt about his intentions on abuse. He's willing to discuss change in several parts of the church. But not when it comes to pedophile priests and complicit bishops.

Many consider the pope as a moral authority. He says that only the Catholic Church has been attacked on abuse. If he honestly believes that other institutions are dealing with abuse in reckless ways, we would welcome him exposing and denouncing them.

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2JudyJones(148 comments)posted 8 months, 3 weeks ago

continued:
On a personal level, as a parent, and the brother of a predator priest, I am very upset by Pope Francis' comments. My brothers (three of them) and I became victims of child sex crimes because a Catholic prelate (Bishop Michael McAuliffe) sent a predator priest (Fr. John Whiteley) to our parish with no warning.

Fr. John was extraordinarily shrewd. And my parents were taught, since birth, by the church they love, to trust clerics. My parents could not have known he was molesting us. So for the pope to imply that parents are to blame for most abuse disgusts me.

Finally, we're saddened to read the AFP report that “Looking back over his first 12 months, the 77-year-old said the one thing he would change would be to tone down the near-mythical status he has acquired in some circles.”

We wish his regret was not cooperating with prosecutors who want an accused child molesting Polish archbishop extradited. Or not cooperating with United Nations officials who asked for information on clergy sex cases. Or not demoting convicted Missouri bishop who enabled a child molesting cleric to hurt more kids while he hid evidence from police. Or not ordering bishops to report suspected child sex crimes to secular authorities, no matter if they are mandated to do so or not. Or having met with Cardinal Roger Mahony in January or Cardinal Bernard Law last March. Or having promised an abuse commission more than three months ago but failing to set it up yet. Or not disbanding the scandal-ridden Legion of Christ. Or not pushing for updated and stronger secular child safety laws. The list goes on and on.

In his most recent audience, the pope explained that Lent is a time for "a turnaround," to convert and change for the better. We have little optimism that he will change his church's long-standing, deeply-rooted and extremely hurtful approach to those who commit and conceal heinous sexual violence against kids.

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