Deeply Dissapointed in Pope Francis’ Recent Comments on Clergy Child Sex Abuse / Voice of the Faithful
We are deeply disappointed in Pope Francis’ comments on clergy sexual abuse as reported recently in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
Pope Francis said: “The Church has done so much on this road, perhaps most of all. The statistics on the phenomenon of violence against children are impressive, but they also show clearly that the vast majority of abuse occurs in the home environment and the neighborhood. The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have moved with transparency and accountability. No one else has done more. Yet the Church is the only one to be attacked.”
Hearing the Pope use the abuse-occurs-elsewhere excuse is truly disheartening. We hope he was referring only to the recent U.N. criticism when he made these comments because much work remains to be done. We hope that the work of his commission on clergy sexual abuse will produce true steps toward healing and reform and the fulfillment of Francis’ obvious commitment to mercy and compassion towards all the suffering in the world.
When considering clergy sexual abuse of minors within the Catholic Church, the Church surely cannot expect the claim that abuse occurs elsewhere to be taken seriously. Of course, child sexual abuse occurs in the home, in families, in the neighborhood and in other institutions. Does that excuse the Church’s failure to report such crimes and its decisions to shield the abusers, as it has done for many decades?
That the Church may have been the only institution attacked, as in the recent U.N. report, does not matter. What matters is that child sexual abuse occurs in the Catholic Church. The evidence from multiple sources over many years and from around the world is that the Catholic Church has a huge problem with clergy sexual abuse. Tens of thousands of children have been abused by thousands of clergy. Instead of being transparent about these crimes, the bishops kept the abuse secret and reported the crimes within the Church instead of to civil authorities.
Worse, the fact remains that the Vatican has never removed or censured in any way any member of the hierarchy involved in the scandal. Those who covered up crimes of clergy sex abuse remain in their positions or were allowed to retire with a dignity that was never accorded to victims. Pope Francis’ comments, made during an interview covering several subjects, seem to continue to defend the institutional Church and the hierarchy rather than to express any concern for the victims of abuse within the Church or to focus on the need for concrete steps to foster the healing of these thousands of victims.
The Vatican claims that the Catholic Church has done more than any other institution in the world with regard to child protection. Yes, the Church has put many policies and programs into place and trained tens of thousands of adults and children to recognize and act upon clergy sexual abuse. But where is the will to see these procedures through to their end? The National Review Board, established by the U.S. bishops to monitor the execution of these programs, for example, remains hampered by the way parishes and dioceses have administered the procedures and by the Church hierarchy. The board’s top administrators have borne witness to this.
In addition, the Church hierarchy, again testified by many around the world, has victimized the abused by accusing them of lying, of somehow causing their own abuse, of “tarnishing” the Church. Victims also were forced time and again to sign confidentiality statements to protect the Church. As adults, these survivors may receive apologies from the Church, but they see no attempt to discipline the bishops who cared more about the abusers than the abused and who chose to hide assets rather than help the victimized.
We are disappointed that Pope Francis, with his care for the marginalized, desire for social justice and focus on clericalism and reform of the Curia, does not see that holding bishops accountable for coverups and a full release of all secret files are essential for true reform and healing.
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.
We (the editors of National Catholic Reporter), like so many others, are taken with your very human and pastoral approach to life’s difficult issues, with your deep compassion that you don’t hesitate to demonstrate and with your insistent exhortation to move out of our comfortable churches and go encounter the rest of humanity, especially those on the margins …
“We claim a certain authority in addressing the issue (of clergy child sexual abuse) because we have been investigating and analyzing the scandal for so long. Countless times we have heard the defense that most abuse of children occurs outside the church and that the church has done more than any other institution to become transparent and aggressive in preventing abuse.
“The other side of that truth, Your Holiness, is that no other institution on earth had the means or the will to hide as much crime and sin for so long. The reality is that while the incidents of abuse of children are horrific, the larger and more persistent scandal is how many bishops and cardinals hid the sin, paid victims enormous sums of money to stay silent and refused to tell even their fellow bishops and priests of potential problems when they transferred troubled priests … “
Click here to read the rest of the editorial.
As the media continue to size up Pope Francis’ papacy at the one-year mark, David Gibson of Religion News Service writes about Francis’ plan for reform. He says Francis wants to overhaul and upend “the institutional culture of Catholicism” by leveling the hierarchy, teaching Catholic leaders to teach and to trust and evangelizing the world. Read his article, “Pope Francis’ Plan for Reform: Convert the Church,” by clicking here.
Francis Has Changed American Catholics’ Attitudes, But Not Their Behavior, a Poll Finds / The New York Times
One year into the era of Pope Francis, a new poll has found that a broad majority of American Catholics say he represents a major change in direction for the church, and a change for the better. But his popularity has not inspired more Americans to attend Mass, go to confession or identify as Catholic — a finding that suggests that so far, the much-vaunted ‘Francis effect’ is influencing attitudes, but not behavior.”
By Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times — Click here to read the rest of this article.
Frrancis Convenes First-of-Its-Kind Summit of Religious Institute Treasurers to Talk about the Use of Money / National Catholic Reporter
Pope Francis has asked the treasurers of the thousands of Catholic religious orders around the world to meet in Rome this weekend to discuss how they can use their orders’ financial assets ‘for the service of humanity.’
“The first-of-its-kind summit puts an unusual focus on the wealth of the orders.”
“(The event) is to have 15 talks on issues ranging from the use of church property, to financial debts, to economic solidarity …
“Among other presentations listed for the Vatican event:
- ‘Church property and its purpose,’ Jesuit Fr. Yuji Sugawara, dean of the faculty of canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University;
- ‘Charity, justice, and legality. The assets of Institutes and orders,’ Dominican Fr. Miroslav Konštanc Adam, rector of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, commonly known as the Angelicum;
- ‘Relationship between the service of authority and the service of the economy, in the good management of the institute,’ Br. Álvaro Rodríguez Echeverría, head of the De La Salle Christian Brothers;
- ‘The missionary project and economic choices.’ Sr. Yvonne Reungoat, superior general of the Figlie di Maria Ausiliatrice;
- ‘Towards a prophetic, communional economy with solidarity,’ Sr. Evelyne Franc, superior general of the Daughters of Charity.”
By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this article.
Earlier this year, a Catholic middle school in Montana fired an unmarried teacher after she became pregnant. The superintendent of Catholic schools for the diocese defended the decision with a cold legalism that would have made those letter-of-the-law Pharisees Jesus called to task proud.
“The Catholic superintendent must have missed that part in Pope Francis’s groundbreaking interview with a Jesuit journal where he said:
“‘If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing…Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists —they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies.’”
By John Gehring, National Catholic Reporter, former USCCB assistant director of media relations — Click here to read the rest of this article.
In another strongly worded message to the Catholic hierarchy, Pope Francis on Thursday (Feb. 27) told the Vatican body that vets nominees for bishops that they need to find him better candidates to send to dioceses around the world …
“The pope has blasted hierarchical “careerism” as “a form of cancer” and derided bishops who strut about in church finery as “peacocks.” He has called on bishops to be pastors who are close to the flock and not “airport bishops” who buzz around the world padding their resumes.”
By David Gibson, Religion News Service — Click here to read the rest of this story.