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Pope Francis apologizes for sexual-abuse scandal.


Today, in an address to members of the International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE)--an NGO that works to protect the rights and dignity of children--Pope Francis asked for forgiveness for the "damage [abusive] priests have done for sexually abusing children." Noting that the total number of abusive priests is high, "obviously not compared to the number of all the priests," Francis reassured the audience that "the church is aware of this damage; it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the church." He promised that "we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed--on the contrary, we have to be even stronger."

Is this earth-shaking? Not really. But given that the last time he spoke on the subject it didn't exactly go over too well, this is a marked improvement. And--significantly--these remarks were not part of the prepared text. Francis could have read through the speech as written and avoided the uncomfortable subject altogether, bringing headlines like, "Pope Speaks to Child-Protection Group, Ignores Sexual Abuse." But he didn't. And what he said carries some force.

Francis pledged not to "take one step backward." He referred to "sanctions that must be imposed." Of course, the question remains: sanctions for whom? For abusive priests? We're aware of those sanctions. What about the bishops who enabled abusers? Francis has made it clear that he's not afraid to investigate an accused cardinal. But is he willing to penalize bishops who have put kids at risk--even after the hard lessons of 2002? That's the great unfinished business of the sexual-abuse scandal.




Commenting Guidelines

A CEO runs a corporation through a group of direct reports who have to be trusted to do what the management and board of directors have agreed is necessary to accomplish the organization’s mission.

Normally a good CEO allows that to happen by giving individual and collective continuous guidance to the DRs as to whether they are on track or not.

However, if a situation arises that threatens to destroy the credibility of the organization a good CEO sometimes has to take unilateral action to prevent or stop the situation before it gets worse in the eyes of the public and customers.

It’s best to let the DRs handle matters but not if their foot-dragging causes undue or even irreparable harm to the overall goal.

Francis IS the CEO of Roman Catholicism, Inc.

 if [collegiality] is how the Church should be run, and how Francis wants to run it, he can't put on his Superman cape,

I think we have discussed this a few years ago. The idea is that in the normal course of events, bishops run their dioceses and decisions (including local nominations?) are taken collegially by the national assembly of bishops. In the normal course of events, when things go relatively smoothly, the Vatican would take no part in the decisions (about the missal, for example, and many other questions of the daily life of the church.) Rome intervenes only in the extraordinary case when there is a grave problem that the local church is unable to deal with: episcopal cover-up would be a good example of such a problem.

So, collegiality is compatible with effective leadership and occasional, rare, well-targeted interventions.

Claire, I agree -- to a point. The extraordinary case was about 10 years ago while Blessed JPII was sanctioning Sandinistas and encouraging youth to cheer for whatever. The problem is no longer extraordinary. It is now normal. And the normal is, looking at it broadly, a mess. If you are just talking about the US of A, where there is a good written policy and the Bishop of Lincoln and the ward of the D.A. in Kansas City, yeah, that mess could still be cleared up fairly quickly. But simultaneously you have countries where nothing good at all has happened, countries where all the wrong things have happened, and so on. One size won't fit all.

So Jim are you suggesting that we limit ourselves to working with the victims who forgive?

No, not at all, Molly. Nor am I speaking speciously of forgiveness - I'm attempting to speak honestly of it.  I don't think the church should write off the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.


Jim, I think you misunderstood the sister's last statement. She was being sarcastic when she used the word "errant".

Thanks, Suzanne, you're right - I didn't catch that she was being sarcastic.  So sorry, Sister.


I love Francis.  I would like to see him get this right.  I would give him whatever positive encouragement I could to help him get this right.


I don't love Francis but I do like him.  I hope the best for his papacy and I think he's an incredible improvement over past popes.  Hmmm - I guess I feel about him the way I feel about Obama  :)

"You think the bishops can be trusted to police other bishops?"

Crystal --

Once again, Plato's question:  who shall guard the guardians?  It seems to me that history has shown that there is never a lack within the RCC of priests of over-weening ambition who crave, and know how to get, spiritual power.  And so we have been saddled with a Vatican with an absolute monarch on the top with a "college" of cardinals that historically has not been very collegial at all.

So what sort of structure at the top of the Church would work against the sort of concentration of power in the hands of a few which seems implicit in the pope/king, curia/oligarchy set up?  Maybe Francis' reforms should somehow split the structure of the college of cardinals (or whomever is at the top besides the pope) into two groups -- sort of a bicameral government in the Vatican.  But how might this work?  A House of Representatives made up of mere bishops and a Senate made up of cardinals?  It might work. 


How about a system kind of like the Episcopal Church's?  A leader  with term limits  (9 years) who is  voted in by a meeting of a house of bishops and a house of deputies (priests and lay people).  I believe that a voted-for disciplinary board made up of bishops, priests, and lay people handles charges against bishops ...

Crystal --

On a more local level, yes, something like that would make sense.  The two chambers in either case would be representative of those who are aquained best with the probems (the House) and, theoretically, those who are more likely to propose workable solutions (the Senate).   Or something like that.  What we have now is one chamber in the Vatican  (the cardinals) which is not required to consider the problems as they are experienced by the wider Church, so the teachings and policies become at best irrelevant.

Crystal, thank you for the Episcopal link.  I was going to suggest the same thing. The beauty of the system of governance in the Episcopal church is that it also provides for participation in the laity in the selection of their own bishops, and in the whole governance of the church. 

 Ann's observation is on point also. So it might be a good idea if the Catholic church could also find a way to adapt the model of the Anglican Communion and essentially have national, or at least regional, churches that understand what is going on and what is needed in their own jurisdiction.   Does this always work? Can it lead to break-ups?  Perhaps. Certainly the Anglican Communion has been struggling in recent years.  Bishops in Africa are backing government sanctions against gays, which can include imprisonment or even execution.  Not only the Anglican bishops, but the Roman Catholic bishops have also so far not protested these laws.  So far as we know, Rome has yet to address this issue . The African bishops came close to full schism from the Anglican Communion over the issue of gay priests and gay bishops.  It may still happen, and one could imagine something similar happening in a Roman Catholic church that permitted a degree of regional/national autonomy.  Yet that would perhaps be preferable to the situation now, in an unwieldy church of more than 1 billion.  What is the standard question - unity or uniformity? 

Hi Anne,

Yes, interesting the latest wrinkle with the Anglican Communion ... Justin Welby making the argument that the Church of England shouldn't do same sex marriages because it will lead to deaths in African countries -

I don't know the answer, but I don't think 'staying together' can be the highest priority of all.

The Anglicans in England are, in effect, having to make life-and-death decisions for Anglicans in Africa:   Africans Christians will die if Apb. Welby says "Gay marriages are permissible", but nothing will happen to the Archbishop.   What a hellish set of circumstances for all of them.  For Apb. Welby it's like having to send other people and their children off to war but staying home himself.  So how does he make a prudent decision? Again, prudence makes demands but doesn't say how ot meet the demands fairly.  It doesn't even say what "fair" is. 

I don't see why African Anglicans will die if the English church blesses gay marriage.  It seems far more likely that the formal schism that was narrowly avoided a few years ago will finally take place and the African church will go its own way.  The Anglican bishop have supported this horrendous legislation, and the RC bishops have not opposed it.

Several conservative Episcopal churches in the US broke away a few years ago when Bishop Robinson was confirmed as bishop in New Hampshire.  They are now loosely affiliated with one another instead of the Episcopal church.  They are few in number, and the main fall-out was the litigation over property - who owned the buildings and land.  The courts so far have ruled in favor o the Episcopal church instead of the congregations that broke away from ECUSA.  But, that's a different issue.

I'm with Crystal though - I don't know the answer, but I don't think 'staying together' can be the highest priority of all.

Yeah, there's a lot of skepticism about what Welby said - Episcopal priest Susan Russell wrote about it here ....

Don't minimize the importance of staying together. The breakdown of family and community has been a regrettable connsequence of the kind of individualism that capitalism seems to bring in its wake. I am not at all opposed to individualism but not at the expense of harmony and community. 

It takes time for a consensus to emerge and somtimes we just need to be patient. Dialgoue, conversation, no sudden moves to break things apart abruptly.

I have a Chinese friend who told me that in his view the Chinese government knows full well that Communism is dead but is just letting it slowly die. They don't want any sudden revolutionary lurches so are managing the transition slowly. Cohesion, saving face, all of these are highly valued. And we could learn a lot from that.



Further to what I said above:  Francis is CEO of Roman Catholicism, Inc ..........NOT L.L.C!

The liability fully and always attaches to the organization.