Early December 2013 was the first time Pope Francis publicly discussed the issue of sex abuse by clergy. In a meeting with Dutch Bishops he expressed sympathy for victims.
“I promise compassion and prayer for every victim of sexual abuse and their families,” the Pope told the prelates in remarks prepared in French.
While the Pope offers compassion for the victims of sexual abuse, I find it disturbing that he makes no mention of prosecuting members of his own church who have perpetrated these heinous crimes. Prayer is simply not enough. The victims deserve justice and the Catholic Church needs to end the plague of sexual abuse committed by its own clergy. If the Pope is truly sincere, there needs to be an investigation of every Cardinal, Archbishop, and Bishop who have been complicit in covering up abuse, protecting predator priests, and exposing children to dangerous priests.
Pope Francis has been vocal in his opposition to poverty, inequality, and global capitalism. But after eight months as Pope, it is shocking that these short remarks in the Netherlands mark the only time he has spoken about the biggest crisis facing the church.
As if to further underscore the Pope’s failure, on the same day he was speaking to the prelates in Holland the Vatican officially refused to provide information requested by the United Nations on the alleged sexual abuse of children by Priests, nuns, or monks.
In July the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child put a wide-ranging questionnaire to the Holy See – the city state’s diplomatic entity – asking for detailed information about the particulars of all sexual abuse cases notified to the Vatican since 1995. The questions included whether priests, nuns and monks guilty of sexual crime were allowed to remain in contact with children, what legal action had been taken against them, whether the Church required clergy to report abuse to secular authorities and whether complainants were silenced.
The Holy See responded by insisting that it was “separate and distinct” from the Roman Catholic Church, and that it was not its practice to disclose information about the religious discipline of clergy unless specifically requested to by the authorities in the country where they were serving. The irony is that on every other issue the Vatican insists on operating firm command and control structure over the worldwide Church. Only when confronted about the sexual predators within the church – and how the Catholic Church has sheltered them – do they attempt to obfuscate and defer to local authorities.
If Pope Francis intends to make headway on the child sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church he must offer more to the victims than prayers. He must offer them justice, and the promise that these horrible crimes never happen again.
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