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On sex abuse, Francis - alas - sings a familiar tune

If there's an area in which Pope Francis has been a disappointment, it's in responding to the sex-abuse crisis. In most ways he strikes me as a hierarch who is unusually aware of how the Church is perceived by the broader world, and he has done a lot indirectly to repair the damage to the church's credibility that resulted from the sex-abuse scandal. But he has said and done little about the scandal itself, despite his refreshing frankness on so many other issues. And now that he has spoken about the issue, in the interview just published in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, his take is not exactly encouraging.

Here's the relevant excerpt, as reported in Vatican Insider's account:

Speaking about the horrific abuse of children by priests, Francis said “the cases of abuse are terrible because they leave very deep wounds”.  Benedict XVI “was very courageous and opened a road, and the Church has done a lot on this route, perhaps more than all others”, he stated. He noted that the statistics reveal the tremendous violence against children, but also that the vast majority of abuse takes place in the milieu of the family and those close to them.  The Church is the only public institution to have moved “with transparency and responsibility”, he said; no one else has done as much as it, “but the Church is the only one to be attacked”.

Oh brother.

Francis is not the first defender of the church to speak as though it's obvious that sexual abuse is rampant in any organization you can name, and we just don't hear about it because the media hates the Church. There have been revelations of abuse and cover-up in other institutions: scouting, private schools, Hasidic communities. But it isn't just distorted perspective that makes the church's sex-abuse problems stand out: it's the scale of the abuse and the mishandled response, the persistence of the problem, and the lack of transparency and responsibility that has made the church's scandal such a mainstay in the media for so long. Then, too, there's the fact that the church is a church, which ups the conscience-shocking factor. And it's a church with a very strong, very visible authority structure, so when leaders commit crimes -- or fail to admit mistakes -- it reflects badly on everyone and everything.

If the church's leaders have responded with compassion, transparency, and a willingness to reform -- and some have, but not everywhere, and not consistently -- it was only after decades of foot-dragging and an understandable but regrettable impulse to downplay from the enormity of the problem. The extent to which the Catholic Church today represents a threat to the well-being of children is often exaggerated, and the subject of sexual abuse is exploited by people eager to discredit religion in general and Catholicism in particular. It's frustrating. But it's a situation we brought on ourselves, and complaining about it now is no way to fix things. And make no mistake: things haven't been fixed. I'm hoping the pope knows that, or will soon speak to someone who can tell him so.

Speaking of missed opportunities:

Asked why he doesn’t speak about the so-called “non-negotiable values”, particularly in the field of bioethics and sexual morality, Pope Francis stumped the interviewer by telling him, “I have never understood the expression ‘non-negotiable values’.  Values are values. Full stop! I cannot say that among the fingers of a hand there is one more useful than another. So I do not understand in what sense there can be negotiable values”.

If only he had thought to ask George Weigel about that when he met with him earlier this week!
Surely Weigel would have been happy to explain.



Commenting Guidelines

Bernard --

Let's say that a man has 5 kids, and his wife dies.  He asks his younger bachelor brother to come help share some of his fatherly duties.  After several months, one of his sons comes to him and says that his uncle has abused him, and pleae stop him.  The father goes to his brother, tells him about the accusation, the brother promises it won't happen again.  But it does -- a second son reports the uncle to the father.  The father keeps the brother in the house.

What would you think of that father?  And how, if at all, does he differ from Pope Francis and his brother bishops such as Finn, Myers, and Nienstadt?   



Are there people who should be prosecuted  for either sex crimes or for  covering up for sexual predators, within the statutes of limitations, who are  still not being prosecuted ?If there are get the wheels in motion to have them prosecuted. if there arn't ,basta ja!. 

In the US civil justice system, Bp. Finn was prosecuted and convicted. He has negotiated an agreement in which his work is supervised monthly at least for the next couple of years.

In the church, what were the consequences of his negligence and of the subsequent actions of Fr Ratigan? None. Bp. Finn keeps his position, power, authority. Everything in the church is continuing as if nothing had happened. 


So he WAS dealt with by the criminal justice system.Convicted too. He's in no danger to the children now,he's under supervision.What more do you want from the church? The church is called to forgive!

Bernard, you write: "Why should anyone suggest that the pope is less interested in responding appropriately to the clergy sexual abuse issue than he or she is?" I haven't suggested that. I have criticized his answer to a bad question about the church's response to the worst crisis it's known in modern times. You ask, "Why should I or anyone else think that we know exactly what the pope should say and do to deal effectively and with proper diligence to this issue?" This is a curious formulation. Should the pope not have advisers? If so, what would qualify them, in your estimation? 

You continue: "For me to claim that he is morally at fault for not doing as I would want him to is, in my view, a rash judgment." Not my claim. He gave a bad answer, poorly conceived, strangely out of date, and dangerously comforting to those who would protect the status quo. 

I'm not calling for the pope to do penance for this gaffe. Silence is not always the best expression of mercy.

Ann asks me: "And how, if at all, does he differ from Pope Francis and his brother bishops such as Finn, Myers, and Nienstadt?"

Ann, if you can see no difference between Pope Francis and these bishops, I doubt that you's find anything I could say of any value.

For my part, let me say to Ann and the other sharp critics of Pope Francis on this thread that I think you are playing right into the hands of the right-wing critics of Pope Francis's efforts to bring critically needed reforms into the Church. I question the political good judgment of these critics. They seem to have their own "non-negotiable demands."  In decent politics, you always start with the presumption that your opponents love their country just as you do. Here, however, in Church matters, the "non-negotiable" crowd sounds like they are not prepared to grant that Pope Francis loves the Church, understood as the People of God, as much as the critics do.

I do not doubt that these critics love the church. But I do fear that they appear less than willing to presume that Pope Francis also deeply loves the Church.

What more do you want from the church?

The church has done nothing. Everything was done by civil justice. I want more than nothing. I want the church to not leave in a position of authority someone who cannot be trusted to have sound judgment in matters of sex abuse. His recent failure in that regard is precisely the reason why he is being monitored monthly. It makes no sense to me to leave someone in a position for which he has demonstrated incompetence. It has nothing to do with forgiveness but with respecting the office of bishop. 


Bernard: the comments by pope Francis highlighted in this post show that regarding the important question of sex abuse he has a blind spot. Should I refrain from criticizing his perspective on that question, just because he is so uplifting on other subjects? Is it like a war against the right-wing, where we all have to rally behind our leader, support him always and never point out his flaws? 

Maybe you're right that it's better church politics to politely ignore the pope's inane comments on sex abuse. That we should never criticize him, given that in the main he is forging ahead with a intoxicatingly lovely vision of the church, and given that he has powerful critics who will try to prevent him from implementing the reforms that he advocates and that we support. But it's not about "mercy", "forgiveness", etc. It's about politics. 

It's not just the people posting comments here who are upset ...

"A Pew Research Center survey of American Catholics last year showed that 70 percent thought addressing abuse should be the top priority for the new pope, but in a follow-up report released this week only 54 percent gave Francis high marks for addressing it." ...

One thing he could do that would make an immense difference would be to fire those bishops who are known to have covered up abuse.

He like  many others was incompetent in matters of sexual abuse.That was part of the reason the scandal lasted so long.The other reason was yes, perhaps [though only God knows  our hearts] a willingness to sin, by covering for their own even at the expense of known harm to children and at the expense of justice.Since he himself is not a pedophile there is no reason to believe he cannot and has not aquired the right information,the right competence  regarding  sexual abuse.And no reason to believe  that he is  not contrite for sins he may have committed in that regard.He's being monitored so there is no reason to not allow him to continue in ['Im assuning here] his other wise competent office as bishop.He has been punished by being tried and convicted.The office of bishop is respected by respecting the reality that a person can go from being ignorant to being knowledgable.The bishop is not God[as Pope Francis says about the cult of clericalism which the laity abhors on the one hand, yet then thows up as a barrier to reconciliation with the Vatican for crimes, sins, iincompetences,ignorances of the past].The Vatican is not in the punishing business;there is no reason it should punish him more then the criminal justice system has.

I am not aware of evidence that he has acquired the right competence regarding sexual abuse. "There is no reason to believe he has not acquired it" is not good enough. I want reason to believe that he has acquired it. He said he's sorry, but words alone do not mean anything. He said porn is wrong, but he had said it before the events: that's part of what makes this case infuriating. His words before the events did not match his inaction when faced with the priest's actions. So, what we learned about him is that his words cannot be taken at face value. Are you saying that we should believe him anyway? That makes no sense to me.

On the other hand, maybe you're right and we just sbouldn't pay any attention to bishops and to what they say. That would solve the problem of Bp Finn remaining in office.

Oh, and one more thing: removing him from office is not a punishment. It's not done in order to punish him. This is not about punishment, mercy, forgiveness, etc. Being a bishop is not like having a medal of honor! It's a job, and this is just about ability to do the job properly. 

So let's grant it;that a whole lot of these clergy,would never have gotten through seminary,with the knowledge we have today about sexuality.O.K.? But they're here now, as bishop and priests. Going forward the church is taking steps that a different sort of person will be responding to the call to the priesthood. We can't just discard all these people of  another mindset .They too are the people of God,in need.Not that all were /are like this but let's cut them some slack here, as they were part of the clergy culture of the times and of the wider culture.The times have changed.Let's be grateful for that and even  see them as victims of ignorance,repression etc., too.

"Ann, if you can see no difference between Pope Francis and these bishops, I doubt that you's find anything I could say of any value."

Bernard --

Oh, I see huge differences between the Pope and those bishops.  In fact, I love the Pope dearly because of those differences.  But I wasn't comparing the Pope and the bishops.  I was comparing *how the Pope is handling his failed brother bishops* and how the father in my hypothetical case *handled his hypothetical brother* and, indirectly, how they protect or do not protect their children. 

I'll repeat one of my mantras: a person can be a saint without being perfect.  And, yes, I reluctantly have to admit that I have begun to think that Pope Francis has a blind spot when it comes to his brother bishops, and the longer he puts off acting removing some of them from office, the more certain I'll be.

To all of my critics: It may be that I turn out to be wrong about asking that Pope Francis be accorded the presumption that the priorities he has set for dealing with the Church's problems  make good sense.  From your comments, I take it that since he has not done what you  think has to be done by now we have good reason to call him on the carpet. I know about his comment about what the Church has done in this matter has left you unsatisfied. If that is all he has to say I too would be dissatisfied. What I object to is the impression that some of you give that the pope, regardless of anything else, should play the role of the Avenging Angel with people like Bp. Finn. Two points: I'm not interested in having Avengin Angels as popes, sweeping in to right all wrongs just as they see fit to do so without considerable consultation. Second, could it be that his critics here take it that the needs of the U. S. Church have such priority that his devoting attention to naming cardinals, preparing for a large and important synod, dealing with Vatican finances, etc. shows bad judgment opn his part?

Suppose, for example, the pope lops off the heads of some U. S. prelates. Would that be enough to satisfy his critics? Suppose he were to insert a few canons into Canon Law. Would that do the job? Grant, Claire, etc. spell out the minimal he has to do to show his good faith. Until you do, you are rather like Republicans, saying Obamacare is a mess and offering no specific remedies. Just canning some bishops is no policy.

Let m add to the list of the pope's accomplishments in this his first year. He has served as an admirable model of what a diocesan bishop ought to be, am model that our local ordinary, wholly free of any taint in the sex abuse matter, seriously need, but is unlikely to notice.

Pope Francis is a a man and a sinner, someone prone to faults and mistakes. It's too bad that his critics are spending so much time and energy showing that he's not the answer to their every prayer instead of  showing gratitude for the blessings we have received through him. Yes, criticize. But show some sense of your own fallibility. Again, show that your critiques are the critiques of people who themselves always need criticism.

Sorry for preaching. I've got no licesne for doing so. I know that I'm no better than any of you are,but I've got to say what I think. If you find it offensive, I ask your pardon. Nonetheless, it is, for better or worse, what I think.

To anser Bernard's question, this is what I think Francis should do ....

1) I believe the main cause of the sex abuse problem in our church is madatory celibacy -  I think it tends to attract a certain number of people to the priesthood who have sexual/emotional problems.  This would explain the disparity between abuse in our church and other churches.  Francis should make celibacy optional, allowing men who are or will be married to become priests.

2) he should fire or demote those bishops who covered up sex abuse.  So far he has not even made mention of them.  As long as they persist on their positions of honor (some are cardinals!) it will be very hard to believe Francis cares about justice for sex abuse victims.

I've said from Day One that Pope Francis will not change any delicate doctrinal issues facing the Church of Rome.  To date, I've been given no reason to change my mind.  That said, I think he's one heck of an improvement over his two predecessors in style if not in doctrinal thinking.  I can only hope he's a transition pope to a Vatican II-oriented papacy open to revisiting some of our *tired old doctrines*.

Three things not to say when asked about a scandal within your organization:

  • it's worse elsewhere
  • we're doing more than those other guys
  • you people are meanies for bring it up all the time

Until you have those non-talking points down pat, don't give interviews.

Bernard -have not given up on Francis despite this interview.  Still suspect this Jesuit has some plan of action (not just papal action but action that would involve episcopal conferences and be integrated into canon law). 


-  he has modified the abuse laws of the Vatican state and will host the first high profile case (Polish bishop stationed in Puerto Rico).  Whatever precedent this starts, may be used going forward and sends a message (this is an exception since this bishop was part of the Vatican diplomatic/state department and thus directly reports to Rome)

- he has announced a committee (yet to be named)

- he has had various dicasteries and conferences host high profile sexual abuse discussions in Rome

- he is still collecting what Benedict/Scicluna required from every national episcopal conference

We really don't know what else may be going on internally and behind the scenes. 

- other issues.....realize that some countries could manipulate laws to use against clerics but to go slow or to not develop better sexual abuse policies for the world church is like letting the tail wag the dog.  Make exceptions for certain countries/episcopal conferences but move forward around the 1st/2nd world.

- suspect he is trying to develop lays that give episcopal conferences the rights and duties to make and enforce policies (over the curia and able to apply to any specific bishop rather than every bishop appealing to canon law and thus independent from episcopal conferences)

- if he is successful in this, then episcopal conferences can develop policies and take action against folks such as Finn rather than a Vatican fiat (which can be seen as negative; etc.)


Below is Benedict's meditation in 2005 which was a clear allusion to the crisis in the church. And here is Pope John Paul II's document, Memory and Reconciliation. I remember, at the time, apologists falling all over themselves saying qualifyng it because it pointed out to the sins of the Church and this was just sins of the church of the past. But this was an important document that acknowledged that yes, indeed, the church, could and has sinned.



Jesus falls for the third time

V/. Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi.
R/. Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.

From the Book of Lamentations 3:27-32

It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when he has laid it on him; let him put his mouth in the dust -- there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults. For the Lord will not cast off for ever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.


What can the third fall of Jesus under the Cross say to us? We have considered the fall of man in general, and the falling of many Christians away from Christ and into a godless secularism. Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in his own Church? How often is the holy sacrament of his Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts! How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there! How often is his Word twisted and misused! What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words! How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him! How much pride, how much self-complacency! What little respect we pay to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where he waits for us, ready to raise us up whenever we fall! All this is present in his Passion. His betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his Body and Blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison -- Lord, save us (cf. Matthew 8: 25).


Lord, your Church often seems like a boat about to sink, a boat taking in water on every side. In your field we see more weeds than wheat. The soiled garments and face of your Church throw us into confusion. Yet it is we ourselves who have soiled them! It is we who betray you time and time again, after all our lofty words and grand gestures. Have mercy on your Church; within her too, Adam continues to fall. When we fall, we drag you down to earth, and Satan laughs, for he hopes that you will not be able to rise from that fall; he hopes that being dragged down in the fall of your Church, you will remain prostrate and overpowered. But you will rise again. You stood up, you arose and you can also raise us up. Save and sanctify your Church. Save and sanctify us all.



Yep. Crisis Managment 101.

"Claire, etc. spell out the minimal he has to do to show his good faith". I propose that he should regularly meet with sex abuse survivors and listen to their stories. Maybe he could also ask pope emeritus Benedict to teach him what he learned when he was prefect of the CDF.

Then he would not say that the church is a model of transparency (!) and responsability (!!).

"he's not the answer to their every prayer" - in fact wanting the pope to deal with sex abuse is not merely one among many prayers. It was my number 1 priority when Benedict was pope, and it was my number 1 priority for his successor. 


Claire:  I think you meant:  "I feel sorry for all the people who WERE counting on,pope Francis" !.


And this bit or reality needs to be mentioned:


Francis Has Changed American Catholics’ Attitudes, but Not Their Behavior, a Poll Finds


I see that the NCR editors have the same suggestion:

Thanks to all who have spelled out what they would have Pope Francis do about clerical sexual abuse. This is a start on thinking about policy. Can we now agree that it's in the nature of policy formation that doing it well requires serious and extensive consultation, that whatever policy is adopted, it islikely to   need of adustment in the course of its implementation, and that almost no policy can satisfy all of the reasonable deisre of those affected by it. If we can agree on these points, then our discussions will be far more likely to be constructive.

One question for John Prior. Would you have had the pope respond to his interviewer "no comment?" Or should he have put this topic off limits? Or refrained from giving interviews? I agree, in hindsight, that the pope's answer left much to be desired, but I think it is very good that he has been so accessible. As he has said, go out into the streets, even if you make mistakea and get your hands and feet dirty and come back smelling like the sheep.

I am one of those whose feelings range from disappointed to devastated over Pope Francis's words on child abuse. One of the themes that disturbs me in this correpondence so far is the reference to a time in which' we did not understand' the 'long term effects' - whether of  priests abusing children and young people or of the way the Brothers' or "Sisters' treated children and [ young women] in their 'care'. The Catholic Church teaches everyone -or so I thought - that sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong;that even some forms of sex within marraige is wrong; that even to sexually pleasure  oneself when alone is wrong.  The sexual use of children, young people, and women who are a part of a priest's 'flock' is herefore in itself outrageously wrong: "full stop; end of..."   Nobody should have needed to know the long-term effects of anything of this kind to guide their behaviour, whether of abuse  itself or covering up for the abusers.  And the idea that some people in the instituions  - I know most about  those in Ireland - would not have behaved as they did iif they had realised the 'long-term effects 'is like believing a torturer would  say "Oh gosh, I would not have done  that if I'd have known about possible  long-term effects".  Those reports are not describing physical punishments regarded as 'normal for the time' but horrifying  and systematic  acts of humiliation and sadistic  abuse.   I do not believe there is a disconnect between the Ryan and the Murphy reports. My fear is that if Pope Francis continues in this attitude  of finger-pointing at others and saying "Well they did it too; they re just  as bad or worse" - the part of what he said that I find most distressing - there will never be serious  attempts to understand how people who had 'given their lives to God' who lived surrounded by religious imagery,  - which includes wearing it - who presumaby prayed daly, who had access to spiritual guidance, and who knew the Bible, could not hear either - "Insfar as you did it to the least of these... ", nor warnings about millstones, necks and sea.  There is a saying that what we don't remember we are condemned to repeat. I think that first verb should include the verb 'understand' . We do not learn to understand by pointing the finger at others, or by the 'confession' "We are all sinners" which has a way at times of sounding too easily self-forgiving and therefore  somewhat  smug and queasy.  To use religous privilege and its cultivated trust and to use situations of ritual and the confessional is to add a dimension of wrong beyond that of 'non-religious' abusers. That should not be soft-soaped away by pointing at others that are not world -wide institutions preaching divine revelation and salvation.  

Bernard D.,

It's twelve years now since this scandal burst into view, and it is certainly not surprising that an interviewer would ask about it. It is strange that a man who seems so fresh and current on many other topics would be so poorly prepared to handle this one that he had to fall back on the lame language and excuses he used. I hope he'll do better in the future. 

We're seeing the usual sorts of comments here that we expect from Commonweal readers:  impatient with the pace of reform, yearning for Vatican Three, disenchanted with the outward, public face of Cathollcism (as if Catholicism were not a sacrament--an outward and visible manifestation of a sinful Pilgrim People, lurching along the path God wants us to travel, sinning along the way, led by sinful men.)  

But of course the thread of truth in so many of these predictable comments is that the bishops, perhaps given tacit permission by John Paul II, (who seems not to have been able even to acknowledge priest abuse of minors) have lurched along--slouched along is perhaps a better word--doing too little, too late about the abuses and even in oh, so many cases acting as enablers.  

What of Pope Francis?  I think we can simply take Father Lombardi at his word, that the pope is moving forward on reforms, reforms that will be substantial.  What the hierarchy has still not grasped, however, is tempo.  The tempo at which the public, Christian and anti-Christian, gets ahold of new information and new ideas is rapid.  Rome is still moving along at approximately the pace of a snail.  Tempi are important.  

Few generals and few politicians grasped the astonishing increase in the tempo of warfare that Hitler's generals had brought about in the 1930s, and so in the early years of the Second World War whole armies and whole nations were crushed by the tornado-like speed of Blitzkrieg.  So it has been for the Church, at least the outward, public face of the Church's leadership, and disastrous defeats will pile upon defeats, multiplying, until Rome gets a move on and ups the tempo of response to sexual abuses and everything else.  

In the dicastries we need men like Cardinal O'Malley, the moral equivalent of Marshall, Eisenhower, Montgomery and Zhukov.  Whether the Church Militant realizes it or not, she is in a struggle to the death with anti-Christian forces, some of them occasionally making little sallies on this blogsite.

rose-ellen, your last comment seems reasonable and yes, you don't throw everyone away, but you also don't put those who have demonstrably failed in charge.  That's the issue.  That Finn is still part of the church community is not really the question -- the question is, why is he still in charge?  Why was Bernard Law, in effect, promoted after such spectacular failure to show right and good judgment?  And that doesn't even begin the implications of, in effect, ceding authority to the civil justice system to get the response to even relatively simple issues of sexually based offenses right.  What does it say about the overall judgment of people like Finn on the whole spectrum of sexual ethics, that his understanding is so clouded he can't even figure out the proper response to a priest who is taking lewd pictures of the four year old children of parishioners?  Why shoud anybody listen to him?

But as for these interviews -- the Pope should be better prepared, and should not make excuses, no issue with those comments, but I absolutely despise the "tea leaf reading" culture that surrounds this pope and others -- trying to glean his thoughts and plans from how he answers certain questions.  It's just corrosive and demeaning, that he can't say what he means in a more forthright way, and I mean this apart from the more official documents that are more theologically oriented.  Handling sex abusing priests is not a theological dilemma, or at least, I hope it is not.  Maybe he should have a weekly address like the president. 

i am disappointed by Francis' response so far. It was quite a defensive statement. Maybe it is the way the UN only singled out the Catholic Church when all faiths have similar or worse problems. By any measure the UN statement was ill time. Mainly because it came out a time when there is a Bishop of Rome who is in sync with the UN' goals for the poor. Maybe they resented the attention Francis is getting while he reacted from their assault. That dynamic seems to be in place. 

As I said before I am betting on Francis. We shall see.

^ Is that true, that "all faiths have similar or worse problems"? How similar? For instance, is there a faith with a similar sort of top-down, umbrella hierarchy that has been struck by the same problem to anything near the same magnitude?


It is time to give this new Pope time! Is there anything in his official writings, sermons or official actions as Pontiff that people "jumping all over him" in these blogs find objectionable? Perhaps he may have to be a bit more discreet with the openness he has shown with the media. It opens him up to the sort of criticism we find here. But where is the criticism, if any, of his official pronouncements and actions? So, he has been slower to take some actions many seem to think he should be taking on the sexual abuse question. Not sure I agree; but even if I did, would not the fact of his need to govern a universal Church with billions of members facing scores of serious problems all over the world which he is trying to address as best he can and as fast as may be wise, give us pause so not to jump all over him for his alleged delay here. It seems there is a pent up "anti anything the Catholic hierarchy does" fury that has been at least temporarily stymied because of all the good this humble, honest, hardworking man has been doing this past year that now seeks an outlet. I went to a seminar a few weeks ago at a Franciscan College in in which a balanced but generally very positive evaluation of his pontificate so far was presented by a Theologian and a Church Historian. When questions were entertained from the audience, the first question asked was "When do you think the honeymoon will be over?" Indeed, it seems for many posting blogs here, and for the author herself, that honeymoon is over. In my opinion, it should not be.

The longer the honeymoon, the worse the UTI.

A lot of people have mentioned that they think it is very important that the pope meet with victims.  I don't know; I am trying to put myself in the shoes of someone who has suffered abuse at the hands of a priest or other representative of the Church.  I suppose it would be a nice gesture.  But I can't help but think that it would feel hollow at best. It seems to me that the people who are most able to assist  victims in their healing process are those closest to them. It would be very important to be believed and supported by family and friends. Unfortunately many victims did not experience this belief and support.  Sometimes the abuse happened or was allowed to continue because those closest to the victim were deep in denial. If we know someone who has been abused, we need to listen and offer support however we can. We also need to understand when they are dealing with their pain their own way; for instance refraining from judging them if they find it too painful to be part of the Church at this point in their journey.

I believe that Lorna Crossman in her comment has touched on something important when she said, "The Catholic Church teaches.... that sexual activtiy outside of marriage and even some forms of sex in marriage are wrong..."  In fact traditionally the Church has taught that any sexual sin was a mortal sin, from an impure thought to rape.  I feel that this black and white duality has contributed to the abuse problem, and in particular its cover-up. Because few among the clergy, or anyone else, for that matter; could truthfully say that they had never sinned against chastity, at least in their thoughts. Making them as guilty as anyone who actually acted on the temptation; "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

I was thinking of meetings with sex abuse survivors primarily for the benefit of pope Francis, for his education. He's a good listener. 

Abe --

About which church has been the worst -- the last figure I read (don't remember where, but it was recently) is that the Catholic Church in the U. S. has proportionally had 6 times the number of offenders as any other church.  Possibly their scandals have yet to emerge more completely, but so far the RCC's record has dwarffed all others.

Abe --

About which church has been the worst -- the last figure I read (don't remember where, but it was recently) is that the Catholic Church in the U. S. has proportionally had 6 times the number of offenders as any other church.  Possibly their scandals have yet to emerge more completely, but so far the RCC's record has dwarffed all others.

the tone of many comments here re Francis and his stance on the sexual abuse scandal in the church reveals a disturbingly self-righteous attitude, as if  Francis is there to make THEM happy with his actions and therefore how disappointed they are because he apparently does not see things the way they do.  they are so convinced that they are right about Francis that they cannot even entertain that they may be wrong.  more rottweilerish than Benedict XVI indeed!  the mindset of the holy inquisition seems to inhabit some of those who think they speak for the rest of the Church because they think their intentions are pure.

I am with Bernard Dauenhauer. The clerical sex abuse issue is so multi-faceted that it calls into question so many church teachings about grace, forgiveness, the broken nature of all mankind, power in the church, gender-sterotyping. I could go on. From what I have seen and heard about Pope Francis he is not a Polyanna (Everything is going to be all right!), nor is he a dry metaphysician. I believe he is a practical man who has drawn up a "must do" list and he methodically going it as best he can with the men & to a lesser extent the women at his disposal. He has to hasten slowly and he is not going to make promises he knows that neither he nor his bishops can keep.

I worked in a civil hierachy for over thirty years getting any bureaucrat to admit he that he might be wrong; that he is faced with a challenge he is incapable of coping with, is close to impossible. I pray to the Holy Spirit that He help the Pope to appreciate the situation of clerical sexual abuse in its entirety and that his Bishops rally behind him in dealing with it. God help us all. God help the helpless children.

Autocracy can act faster than democracy. Although the Church is far from the latter, if we are hoping it moves in that direction, it may be messy for awhile, but I hope that Francis is developing a sense that he's not just the Papa bear.  Will his Jesuit expereince assist that? I hope so.

Now I'm really confused about Bishop Finn and the accusation that he showed bad judgement.Did Father Ratigan ever actually molest a child? Was there a hint that he did?If he did then his superior Msgr. Murphy had that in his report from the principal.And it was he[or even the principal] who should have notified the police. From what i'm understanding, Ratigan posessed pictures which showed him to be attracted to children but the initial batch of pictures were not legallly pornographic. Father Ratigan WAS removed from the parish,based on that report  and prohibited to be around children because he's obviously attracted to children even if he has  these technically non pornographic pictures.He then,violated the prohibition of going near children and when called before the diosese,attempted suicide. Only after that attempt were the real pornogrphic pictures found.Why would Bshop Finn call the police to report Ratigan when no evidence of a crime was presented to him?He saw no urgency because Ratigan was separated from children and because no report of actual molestation had been made[if i'm reading the account accurately]Had things proceeded without the suicide attempt,an in depth investigation would have resulted anyway but there was no urgency at the moment as no crime had been alleged to have been committed.They knew they were dealing with a pervert attracted to children and he was removed, However a crime had not been alleged at that point.Simply the possibility that needed to be investigated because they were dealling with someone caught with pictures of children. It was Finn's superior Father Murphy who had the report and the report he Finn read did not show any urgency;no actual child abuse allegation and no actual pornographic pictures.How could he call the police where no actual crime was evident in the report he got?Perhaps Bishop Finn reasoned that Ratigan may be a pervert but since he had at least up to then not actually molested a child ,he possessed good judgement,good ethics, and self control.There was no imminent urgent need to go call the police on him while a full investigation was in the works .   Anyway it's just a matter of time now until the reforms are made that allow for the laity to appoint bishops and i guess priests and where they have oversight . So it would be more fruitful to put energy into that effort then into this ongoing demand for justice about coverups. There is such a thing as cognitive disossance[sp] .People can know objectilvy what they do is wrong and harmful and subjectivly  ignore  or deny the harm or rationalize what they do. it's not simply a matter of bad judgement or that people  are callous necessarily but that they partake of a culture where people compartamentialize  around issues that they are repressed about or overwhelmed about like a sex drive ;in a celibate culture that called homosexuality a perversion and where[of course] pedophila is taboo.This cognitive dissonance  was the problem with the sex abuse scandal coverups.Inndulge as if there is no harm being done to the victim. Cover it up and  it does not exist.Like talking about cancer years ago.The victims who repressed the memory of it for decades or who believed whatever the abusers said even though objectively they knew it went against everything else they were taught [your parents will go to hell if you tell anyone,for example] are part of that cognitive dissonance also[overwhelmed by a lack of  context of the experience].Pope Francis says the church is a hospital. That includes psychiatric. Part of being a christian,a human is at some point we become psychologists                                                                                                                                                              


You think that pornographic pictures of little children imply no child abuse?  Even if someone has not snapped the pictures himself, he has colluding with the creeps who did take them.  Fr. Ratigan got 50 years in federal prison for possession of child pornography.  He had taken some of the pictures  himself.  His sentence allows no possibility of parole -- that's how serious the judge thought his crimes were.  If I remember correctly, some of the children testified at the trial. 

Bishop Finn knew for six months that Fr. Ratigan had the pictures.  He was by law a designated reporter, but, with self-absolving aplomb, he said that since others knew about the problem he didn't think he had to tell the police.  He failed the children of his diocese dreadfully by letting Ratigan run loose for 6 more months, allowing for the possibility that there would be more abuse.

You really should consult the bishop accountability site before venturing opinions about facts you haven't checked out.  The site includes references to newspaper accounts a well bishop accountability reports.  Or just try googling a bunch of sites.  You won't like what you find. - Documenting the Catholic Sexual Abuse ...


Tony de Castro: which comments are you referring to? Your remark is too vague and too general for a response to be possible. 

Joseph Quigley: " The clerical sex abuse issue is so multi-faceted that it calls into question so many church teachings about grace, forgiveness, the broken nature of all mankind, power in the church, gender-sterotyping. " Many of us have been patiently waiting this year to see how pope Francis would act against sex abuse. If his reasons were rooted in the complexity of the issue, it would be perfectly reasonable and we would continue to wait hopefully. But what you said is not what he said. His reasons, as John Prior summarized, are that the majority of abusers are elsewhere, the church has been a model of transparency and responsibility, and the negative perception comes from an anti-catholic campaign in the media.

I do not think it is self-righteous to say that the pope has the wrong perspective on clerical sex abuse. 

I'll read that later.It looks to me right now from what i understand that the initial pictures were not pornographic. Hence because the Bishop is NOT a district attorrney,there was no urgency to call the police about the fact that the priest is attracted to children.THAT is not a crime. The pictures he had were not illigal.The priest was prudently removed from being around children because the pictures though not pornogrpahic raise the  flag that he is attracted to children and potentialy will target children or even has in the past.But there was no smoking gun of a crime  at that point.Being attracted to children does not mean he lacked empathy,judgment, self control regarding abusing them.It certainly means that he should not be around them and he WAS removed from being around children and prohibited from going near them.That's prudent. Nothing more was morally required of Bishop Finn  till he read the report because no allegation of a crime had been made and an investigation was in the works[the report].,What was the hurry to read a report? If the report comtained allegations of abuse then whoever made those allegations and/or wrote   the report had a responsibility to notify the police.Which Bishop Finn knew too.So the fact that the police had not been called by those who made the report means that there was no allegation of an actual crime. Why would or should a bishop stop everything to read a report?The priest was away from children, no allegation of abuse was made .It was only after he violated his mandate to not go near children that his house was investigated and real pornography[illigal] was found.AND btw, we still can't say for certain that going near children he was attracted to meant he would molest them.Is there evidence to this day  he lacked empathy,judgment, self control, ethics about  harming children?If the law is that any priest with any picture of any child [s] has to be reported to the police, immediately, it's a bit absurd but if that is the law then that has to be made explicit and why is it only the bishop who has a responsibility to call the police? Why not the principal of whoever caught him looking at NON prnographic pictures of children?There is room for alot of hysteria here and bishop Finn did not want to succumb to hysteria as he had no evidence of an actual crime.[pornographic pictures or allegations of molestation]He acted prudently.He's not a DA.

Ms. Caminar - you appear to still not understand both the timeline nor the reasons for why Bishop Finn was found guilty of criminal behaviors.

To some of your inaccurate points stated above:


- A June 2010 conversation between Finn and Ratigan, in which the bishop told his priest that “we have to take this seriously,” after a Northland Catholic school principal complained to the chancery that the priest was behaving inappropriately around school children.  (please, Finn knew about the principal's letter/details and met with Ratigan to discuss (this was not just a failure of Monsignor Murphy - nice try - and yes, Finn basically lied about this encounter)

- A chancery computer manager’s determination in December 2010 that only four or five of the hundreds of lewd photos found on Ratigan’s laptop had been downloaded from the Internet. The rest appeared to have been taken with a personal camera. (Almost all the photographs were taken by Ratigan - often at homes of parishioners; at the dinner table, etc.)

- A statement from a Pennsylvania psychiatrist, who found that Ratigan was not a risk to children, which appeared to support the priest’s contention that he was the victim of mistreatment by a school official who complained about his conduct around children.
• A note that Ratigan’s “treatment” with the Pennsylvania therapist in early 2011 consisted entirely of telephone conferences. (note - Finn shopped for this psychiatrist to obtain the most favorable assessment of Ratigan and his actions - this psychiatrist was later to be connected to Opus Dei and other attempts to whitewash clerical abusers)

- After Ratigan's release from the hospital, Finn arranged with the local Vincentian Mission House for Ratigan to reside there and say mass for the convent next door.  Unfortunately, Finn never told the Vincentians about Ratigan, why he needed to reside there, etc. and Ratigan wound up accessing a Vincentian computer to find more pornorgraphy and he broke Finn's rule and viisted with familes and the parish school (again, the Vincentians were never asked to provide oversight of Ratigan nor why Ratigan needed oversight)


Finn’s statement at a meeting with other priests after Ratigan’s arrest that he had “wanted to save … Ratigan’s priesthood” and had been told that Ratigan’s problem was only pornography.
The stipulation also explained Murphy’s decision to call authorities in May 2011. Murphy complained that he was not receiving direction from the diocese’s lawyers and had misgivings about the diagnosis of “loneliness” from the Pennsylvania psychiatrist. Murphy said he had become “horrified” of the prospect that the photographs were not merely downloads from the Internet but were images of children that Ratigan had abused.
“I thought this is just moving along with no direction, and I thought I have got to do something,” the documents quotes Murphy as saying.  (Murphy had to report this to his police friend because Finn refused to take action)

- fought over in Missouri courts, but final ruling was that Finn did fall under the mandatory reporting laws of the state of Missouri  (another item that you are confused on) 

Read more here:

Finally, previous post on Commonweal -


"I'll read that later. It looks to me right now from what i understand that .  .  ."

On the other hand:

 "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Here is the bottom line Ms. Caminar: Parishioners' children were the subject of lewd photographs taken by a priest in the diocese and the priest's interests were shown more considerations than those of the children by the man who was and still is in charge.  That man is Bishop Finn, who was also found guilty specifically for failure to report the priest.  You have pounded so many nails in in the coffin that now every excuse you make is like a shovelful of dirt fin the cemetery of accountability.  You have dug a pretty deep grave so far.