dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

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.

Topics: 

Comments

Commenting Guidelines

Sad - but his history is not remarkable in this area.  IMO, unless he dares to deal with this issue honestly, openly, and directly his achievements will be limited and marred.

He needs to approach this issue in the same way that he has dealt with the Vatican finances.

Abused victims are also the poorest of the poor' they are on the periphery - and to repeat the tired, old memes gets us nowhere.

 

I agree with Bill. It is somewhat perplexing. Mixing columns, that's the reason why we continue to need "Frontline" programs.Would that there be that showing at the Vatican...

And I can't bear to see one of the next Weigel columns that will celebrate "at my meeting with the Holy Father..." Agh!

Very sad.

I am in the middle of composing the Closing Prayer for VOTF's national assembly in Hartford next month. My approach changes in one day. Part of me says, what a fool to have hoped otherwise from Francis or anyone at the Vatican; the fresh air was invigorating while it lasted.

Robert Mickens had it right in that Frontline interview: Bergoglio's record in Argentina was certainly lacking; the implication being, it's not promising. So, what's changed?

But please, transparency and accountability by the Church are without parallel?  Francis needs to learn about Nienstedt for one, or does he really want to know? Will someone get him to read this for starters?

http://www.mprnews.org/story/2014/02/24/catholic-church/mother-of-wehmey...

(JO'Leary linked to it.)

Better yet, lock Francis in with Jeff Anderson for a week to learn the reality of episcopal conduct and mendacity.

Oh my gosh, it's the same old-same old!    I wonder what he means when he says that "the Church has done a lot...perhaps more than others."   As a DRE I've spent the last 12 years doing safe-environment education with kids, parents, catechists and other volunteers.  Never saw a bishop close to this kind of work, nor discerned a bishop with any interest in it.   It's a little too close to reality to have to figure out ways of presenting this kind of material that educates without alarming the people it's aimed at.  And even then, given that sexual abuse is so under-reported, there have to be among our adults, people who have suffered sexual abuse as children and buried it.  So my programs push painful buttons and some of these folks object to talking about the subject at all.  Very understandable and a continued block to really doing ground-breaking work in this area.   So, the Holy Father is not well informed at all about the wide array of realities impacted by what the Church is "doing."   And what has the church  been  "doing" for victims of priests beyond making their lives hard?  Check out the latest manifestation of that at Minnesota Public Radio!

I find it perplexing that Francis has not really confronted the abuse problem. Dolan has used the same tack that there is much more abuse within families. But that is not the issue. The issue is the cover-up. Monumental with Maciel in the face of a ton of evidence. The transfer of the funds by Dolan to the cemetery in his former diocese.  On and on. The pope's record seems to be clear in his former diocese. (The accusations proved to be without merit). It is troubling that he is slow on this issue. Maybe  he wil tie it in to contraception. Or the Synod witll address it. We shall see.....

I giess this isn't really surprising, though it's pretty depressing.  His record on this subject before he became pope wasn't great  ...  http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/pope-francis-was-often-...

And he's been disappointing on the subject of women too.  Those are different areas, of course, but you can't really compartmentalize people.

John Allen:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/world/2014/03/05/pope-francis-critics-sex-abuse-both-sides-have-point/bbFKfVEb7WFSaKdR62ZSjI/story.html

note:

As time goes on, however, he’ll likely be pressed to acknowledge that he sees the critics’ point too. If he seems indifferent, it could mark a pivot point in the honeymoon the new pope’s enjoyed so far.

By meeting critics halfway, Francis also might be in a position to help repair the trust deficit the church and the Vatican often face, which means that even when they try to do the right thing they encounter skepticism

One looming test of Francis’s commitment is likely to center on a new papal anti-abuse commission, which was announced to considerable fanfare in early December by Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston in Rome.

After three months the Vatican still has not unveiled the leadership or staff for the commission, nor made clear precisely what its mandate will be. A legal document giving it formal status is said to be in the works.

Especially in light of Francis’ comments today, observers will be watching closely to see how quickly that announcement comes, and how convincing it is when it does.

Crystal, 

Let's at least read the articles we reference. Here is a quote from the one you gave the url for:

"There is no evidence that Bergoglio played a role in covering up abuse cases. "

 

You and the tone of the article knocked him when it is clear that he was not part of any cover-up. 

I didn't say he covered up sex abuse.  I said his record wasn't great when he was in Argentina, and it wasn't ... here's another article on that subject:  http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB1000142412788732364660457840430414...

I had hope for so much more from Papa Francesco.  But, I suppose that these comments reveal that he too is a creature of the very corrupt clerical system that raised Bergoglio to the rank of cardinal-archbishop,  and now has made him pope.

It was probably too much for us to expect that Francesco could embrace new ideas and policies eventhough those new directions are considered subversive by the very men who just a year ago elected him pope.

Perhaps Francesco is showing us the political limits he can go given the alienated, irrelevant and corrupt hierarchy that surrounds him?  

Perhaps reconciliation and healing for the survivors is not what Francesco has decided is within his pastoral mission for his papacy?  

Perhaps Francesco is only a transitional pope who will lay the groundwork for some future true-reformist.

I know that many survivors of abuse and exploitation had high hopes that Francesco would be possessed of  a new understanding and approach for their struggle for justice and wholeness.

I think I will Twit Francesco Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail where he wrote:  "Justice too long delayed is justice denied."

The pope certainly has no need for me to provide explanations for the priorities he has established, But could it possibly be that he has good reason to walk cautiously in dealing with this issue, that it is not as amenable to a comprrehensive solution as Vatican finances are? That it is as complex as the issue of laws against homosexual activity in some African countries?

That Pope Francis acts with deliberateness is no indication of lack of concern or interest. So the pope's clock is not set to the same set of issues that some people here would like does not establish that he is derelict. He's been pope for just about a year. Some people here sound just like Fox News commentators. They have their own priorities and anyone whose priorities don't square with theirs gets accused of obtuseness, moral fault, dishonesty or what have you. They sound like ecclesiastical "Tea Party-ers."

Crystal, 

John Allen answered this in April of last year.Repeat his record was fine. Are you going to go on unproven stuff.  I can't believe how so many on this thread are citing urls which are unproven. People have even quoted Allen who exonerated Francis. Not just on this area but others. We can wonder about the delay. But there is zero in his record that proves he was part of any coverup. What are we becoming?

Four points help round out the story.

First, the original version of the Journal piece did not note that Bergoglio's term as president of the Argentine Episcopal Conference (CEA) ended in November 2011, so at least technically, responsibility for missing the Vatican deadline resides with his successor as president, Archbishop José María Arancedo of Santa Fe.

Second, the bishops say a set of guidelines is close to being finished. A draft will be discussed at a meeting of the conference Monday then forwarded to the Vatican for review, according to Bishop Sergio Buenanueva, auxiliary bishop of Mendoza, who's overseeing the process.

Third, the bishops say one reason it's taken time to finish the task is because they wanted to wait for a February 2012 summit on the abuse crisis at Rome's Gregorian University, which was organized in part to help conferences that didn't yet have guidelines to pull them together. The idea was to give conferences the information they needed to ensure that their policies are consistent not only with Vatican expectations but with best practices in other parts of the Catholic world, such as Germany and the United States.

That's basically a credible claim, given that representatives of several other conferences I spoke to at that event said much the same thing. Buenanueva said when the guidelines are finished, they'll embrace a "zero tolerance" approach along the lines of the American model.

Fourth, Oesterheld said another reason the process has taken longer than expected is because during his term as president, Bergoglio was "very respectful" of the fact that each bishop has a direct relationship with the Vatican and the desire not to "supplant" that autonomy may be part of the reason it's taking time to hammer out common policies.

 

http://ncronline.org/blogs/all-things-catholic/hard-questions-about-fran...

I always appreciate Bernard's thoughts, though I hope I'm not part of his "Fox commentators!" And I'm not sure any of theh commentors here are. It seems true however,  that this whole issue so complex and multi layed that it is not as easily addressed as finances  ! Right?!

I have had the thought however, that his approach to this whole sexual abuse issue and especially the episcopal cover-ups may be in developing the peer- bishops to speak up as well, that is, that this commission will represent a shifting center of power and discipline in which it is not simply the pope chiding or punishing brother bishops, but a change of culture to a more collegial approach in which others would likewise call each other to task. Thus, in this scenario, the day will arrive when this commission or metrpoloitan or some person and group besides the pope says to a bishop "What you did was wrong. As brothers, we lovingly tell you it is time to go," and then resort to the pope aas necessary... a new model really...

But perhaps that's just wishful thinking....

David Pasinski, thanks. I trust that I am on the same page as you are. What you sayexpresses well what I hope.

Bill,

I'm *not* saying Francis covered up sex abuse when he was in Argentina. I read John Allen's article and he works very hard to explain away the criticisms  made of Francis ... maybe he's correct in his assessment.  Whatl I said was that Francis' recoed wasn't great - he certainly was no heroic advocate for victim's rights back then and he still isn't now.  Why has he punished not a single church official who has been known to have covered up sex abuse ... Law, Beady, Finn, Mahony, et al?  Why does he say that the church has done more than anyone else to protect children and that the church is being unfairly attacked on sex abuse ... both these allegations are ridiculous in the face of decades of facts.  I'm sorry - I realy want to think the best of Francis - but I find his words and actions on the sex abuse problem very disapointing.

What Francis needs to understand and understand well is this:  all the good will he has built up over the last year can be destroyed by making statements such as this.

I feel sorry for all the people who are counting on,pope Francis.

This scandal has been roiling since 1985 -- for 28 years.  Yet the likes of Cardinal Levada is still a power in the Vatican, Bishop Finn is still bishop in Kansas, and Archbishop Nienstadt in Minnesota is still whitewashes his own misdeeds, to mention only three of the worst of the pseudo-shepherds who call themselves bishops.  By this time there is no excuse for Pope Francis' allowing these disgraceful people to stay in place unless he is in fact ignorant of just how rotten they are.

I just looked for an email address at the Vatican site which might allow ordinary people to write to the pope.  There doesn't seem to be any.  However, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, who is a member of the Group of 8, does have a blog where we can post messages.  He needs to know that many of us are losing heart, that we think Pope Francis needs to read about some of worst cases for himself..

Cardinal Seán's Blog

I'm going to write to him and ask that he forward to Pope Francis the recent account from MPR (Minnesota Public Radio) cited by Fr. O'Leary,  "Mother of priests' victims reveals family pain, more abuse, and church's rebuke".  I still hope that Pope Francis just doesn't realize that situations like this STILL go on.    

 

www.mprnews.org:story:2014:02:24:catholic-church:mother-of-wehmey....webloc

 

If enough of us started expressing our outrage to people such as Cardinal O'Malley who have Pope Francis' ear, Francis might finally get the message.  Would that there were a site at the Vatican we could all write to.

 

I feel sad that just as my initial skepticism about him had melted I am now forced again to see how inadequate he is about women, gay rights, and clerical child abuse, and I do fear that many will face sharp disillusion.

Do you think that the recent UN report contributed in any way to his defensive posture on abuse? 

I would have liked to have seen some concrete reforms on sex-abuse by now.  Is there a concrete proposal directed to the Vatican by any of the survivors' groups that the rest of us can sign on?

 

I appreciate Bernard  Dauenhauer's phrase: "ecclesiastical Tea Party-ers." I plan to use it (with proper attribution, of course).

As this and other threads, here and elsewhere, illustrate: more than one choir "sings a familiar tune." They chant: there are no "nonnegotiable values" -- save our own.

On zenit we can read what appears to be the full question and answer on sex abuse. (I was hoping that the Vatican Insider's report had omitted to quote some more hopeful sentences.) The question, on has to admit, is tendencious i its wording. But the answer is no better than the quotes selected by the Vatican Insider.

The scandals that perturbed the life of the Church fortunately are now in the past. On the delicate topic of the abuse of minors, philosophers Besancon and Scruton among others, asked you to raise your voice against fanaticism and the bad faith of the secularized world that doesn’t respect childhood much.

Holy Father: I wish to say two things. The cases of abuse are terrible because they leave very profound wounds. Benedict XVI was very courageous and opened the way. And, following that way, the Church advanced a lot, perhaps more than anyone. The statistics on the phenomenon of violence against children are shocking, but they also show clearly that the great majority of the abuses come from the family environment and from people who are close. The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that moved with transparency and responsibility. No one else did as much. And yet, the Church is the only one being attacked.

I started having doubts about pope Francis' stance on sex abuse when he went to Brazil and did not meet with sex abuse survivors. For him, who loves to go out and meet people and listen to them and understand problems better by going directly to the source, I thought that was surprising. It's also a step back: pope Benedict did it frequently, until, I think, he himself became accused of having made poor decisions back when he was archbishop of Munich. He stopped his efforts around that point, and I almost wish we had left that episode alone. 

There is nothing fresh in the words of pope Francis on sex abuse, nothing indicating an extensive personal meditation. No colorful image, no talk of "filth". This is the perspective he received from people around him, and he hasn't gone out to the margins and learnt better.

His response on the role of women, although, unlike the one above, it does denots some personal reflection, is also not what I would want to read:

How will the role of women be promoted within the Church?

Holy Father: Casuistry doesn’t help in this case either. It’s true that women can and must be more present in decision-making posts of the Church. But I would call this a promotion of a functional type. And with that alone, one doesn’t advance much. Rather, we must think that the Church has the feminine article, “la”: it is feminine by origin. Theologian Urs von Balthasar worked a lot on this topic: the Marian principle guides the Church by the hand of the Petrine principle. The Virgin is more important than any Bishop and any of the Apostles. The theological reflection is already underway. Cardinal [Stanislaw] Rylko [president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity], together with the Council of the Laity, is working in this direction with many expert women.

I think of the role of women as being justified (if it needs a justification!) because God is feminine as well as masculine, not because Mary was giving support to Christ and to the Apostles. If that's the way his thoughts are taking him, then we'll have just one model, a single saint which all women should aspire to imitate. Such an approach severely limits our potential action in the Church. But my model is Christ, not Mary. He is the way, not her. She's just a saint. She's a good model for those whose personality lean in that direction, but that's not all of us. If the theological reflection he is encouraging is going to propose that women should only follow Christ through the imitation of Mary, then it's going to make the situation of women worse by even more firmly putting them in a box.

 

 

I wish I could edit and correct typos.

Irene,

Re your comment: “Do you think that the recent UN report contributed in any way to his defensive posture on abuse?”

John Allen in his recent column (3/5/2014) seems to think so. 

“In the wake of a recent United Nations report blasting the Vatican for its record on child sexual abuse, Pope Francis issued a strong defense both of the Catholic church and his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday, saying ‘no one has done more’ to combat exploitation of children.”  

I guess the honeymoon is beginning to be over. But, I am not ready to seek any annulment. (Would lack of due discretion be grounds?)

Warning to Bill Donohue:  Don’t start Irish jigging for joy, you might break a leg and not be able to parade on St. Patrick’s Day in NYC.

Bernard writes: "Could it possibly be that he has good reason to walk cautiously in dealing with this issue, that it is not as amenable to a comprrehensive solution as Vatican finances are? That it is as complex as the issue of laws against homosexual activity in some African countries? That Pope Francis acts with deliberateness is no indication of lack of concern or interest. So the pope's clock is not set to the same set of issues that some people here would like does not establish that he is derelict. He's been pope for just about a year."

The pope announced the creation of a commission on sexual abuse in December. Should it take months to name its members? Why announce its existence without appointing its membership? Do you think the people here are the only ones who wonder what's taking so long? Whether filling out the roster is high on the pope's list of priorities? I don't. It sends a signal. 

Of course the sexual abuse of minors by priests is a complex issue. But that doesn't excuse the defensive pose Fracis takes at the end of his answer, nor does it explain his tacit acceptance of the question's false premise. The scandal is not over. And then he made matters worse by adopting the defensive crouch of many curial denialists--the men who, for example, blocked the investigation of the church's most notorious pedophile, Maciel, beloved of and promoted by the soon-to-be canonized John Paul II. Those men doubtless took comfort from the fiction that the scandal was a creation of the media. At the price of keeping children in harm's way.

As Bob Dylan said;"How many years must a mountain exist before it is washed to the sea"?After all the mea culpas, the apologies,  the taking responsibility,the exposes, the reforms taken to dismantle the culture that allowed the abuse to be rampant and covered up for so long, after all the prosecutions,the convictions and defrocking of priests, after all the steps taken to ensure children are protected going forward,what more do people want regarding this issue?Yes The world is filled with shocking evil.Yes  it's shocking and evil that harm was done against children by those they trusted most. The work is being done to care for the victims.Humilty ,contrition has set in, The church like it or not, like the rest of society, did not have adequate  knowledge about pedophlia, homosexuality,and sexuality in general as we do today..That's just true and with the knowledge we have today ,with the reforrms for transparency and lay input in the working of the church,there is no legitimate reason to be fixated with the crimes of the past.At this  point the question arises; is this about accountability for crimes of the past or just sheer anger at the patriarchal hierarchal structure of the church? The church is working to  be  more feminine,more inclusive ,more horizontal.If this is about sheer anger that the world contains much evil,then that righeous anger could extend to evil that occurs today.Yes we can be deceived by evil,we have been as the scandal exposed. We're up against a fallen world,and we ourselves are fallen. To rail like that cannot be ,or cannot be for US; in the church, is; for ADULTS still railing about their past, a form of prissiness, or pride;a refusal to accept the human condition,a  denial practically of our need for God. 

Rose-Ellen: take the case of bishop Finn. The people of his diocese need him to be relieved from his position. This is the present, not the past, and action is needed now.

I too share the disappointment in Francis on the issue of sex abuse and women.  I had hoped he was simply putting the sex abuse issue on the back burner while he dealth with the financial corruption. But it seems he is just as defensive as all the others, and, perhaps, too loyal a member of the club to have the courage to hold fellow bishops responsible and accountable. It may be true that he, like Benedict, does not have clean hands himself on this issue, as there were reports that he did nothing to hold anyone accountable in Argentina and also refused to meet with victims.

As far as putting women in a box, that is another vestige of a patriarchal church - run exclusively by male celibates. These are men who almost always have had few or no relationships at all with women as their equals. They are surrounded by other men, predominantly male celibates also, and many of the bishops and cardinals have been in this environment since they were in junior seminary. They have a lot of trouble interacting with women at all, but especially with women who do not fear them nor seem themselves as somehow "less" than their equal. All too often they also hold an idealized and limited understanding of "feminine genius". Since their primary love relationship with women has been with their mothers and grandmothers and they have fond memories of maternal care, they want to limit women to a maternal understanding - including vowed religious women. 

I would love to know the names of the "women experts" that Rome is working with.  How many are married women with children? The church does very much need the feminine genius - that is the number one reason women should be eligible for all seven sacraments. The church operates with the masculine mind only even though God made them male and female in God's image. The church is trying to operate with half a brain. It will never be whole, never more fully image God until it stops shutting women out of the only role where they can impact both doctrine and governance.  If they can't quite make themselves treat women as fully equal to men, then at least start by giving women the traditional behind the scenes influence by dropping mandatory celibacy.  At least then women could have influence as the "power behind the throne" until such day as women are allowed to stand on altars themselves as priests, and be eligible to sit on the "throne" of Peter also. 

Claire, 

Did you miss that Francis said that the quest for women's ordination is clericalism What he meant was that Ordination is not superior to everything. So seeking that for women only perpetuates the clerical myth. Secondly, the Mary presented by Elizabeth Johnson. "Truly Our Sister" is an example we all can follow. Finally, there is a commission that Francis has set up. Can we wait. And he has removed pedphile bishops see  below. 

 

David Gibson reported in December, http://www.religionnews.com/2013/12/04/pope-francis-ignoring-clergy-sex-...

      " On Tuesday, a Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Thomas Rosica, issued a sharp retort that rapped critics for “lying in wait” to ambush the pope on this issue. In a detailed statement, Rosica said that Francis has endorsed the stricter policies on abuse implemented by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, and said he is working, often behind the scenes, to bring about a “massive change” in both “mentality and behavior” in the church to prevent abuse, as well as to foster other reforms.

“The entire world has witnessed over the past nine months his concern for those who suffer in any way,” Rosica said. “High among his list of priorities are certainly those who have suffered sexual abuse in their lives. He will continue to address the issue with clarity, transparency, firmness, justice, direction and compassion.”

Other church sources also said that in fact the pope does take the abuse crisis seriously and aims to tackle the most sensitive outstanding issue: holding bishops accountable.

Case in point: The Vatican’s lead prosecutor on abuse cases, the Rev. Robert Oliver, told the National Catholic Reporter last month that Rome is “well aware” of the problem of prelates such as Bishop Robert Finn of Missouri, who remains in office despite a conviction last year for failing to report an abusive priest to authorities. Oliver said accountability for bishops is part of “a broad conversation” that is happening in Rome now that he hopes will result in new measures.

Others note that Francis also sent a bishop as the designated successor to Archbishop John Myers of Newark, N.J., who is under fire for his handling of clergy abuse cases, and in September the pope removed two prelates in Latin America – one the Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic and the other a low-ranking bishop in Peru — for child abuse allegations."

 

 

Francis to Dutch Bishops,

 "Very particularly, I would like to express my compassionand assure my prayers to each of the victims of sexual abuse, and their families. I ask you to continue to support the painful path of healing they have started, with courage.”

Bill: Thank you for your comment. I did not write anything about ordination for women. For the rest, point taken. Let's say that I am ready to be disappointed.

 

Grant, I recognize that many people raise the same questions you are raising here. I also recognize that the issue in question, namely the inadequacy of the hierarchy's response to clerical sexual abuse, deserves prompt address. What I find unwarranted is the "mind-reading" that you and some others are apparently engaging in here. You and others are imputing motives to the pope that you canot possibly have enough knowledge to warrant. Bill Mazzella has introduced some relevant information. I don't have any inside knowledge of my own. But nothing in the bearing of the pope or in documents like "The Joy of the Gospel" supports the view that in this issue he is just saying and doing the "same old thing." You may turn out to be right. I don't know. But I do not see that you have anywhere near the necessary evidence you would need to warrant the criticisms of the pope that you are making.

I do not doubt that Pope Francis  has on his agenda to address strongly the clerical abuse scandal.

But with repect to his defensive posture which seems to be provoked by the UN Report, we know now his hot button.

@ Jim McCrea 3/5/14 - 10:30pm:

Amen, brother!

The Vatican seems to be recognizing the fallout -- Zenit reposts Fr. Lombardi's email to Nicole Winfield of the AP, who had one of the strongest takes on the pope's remarks:

http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/fr-lombardi-church-is-committed-to-prot...

Fr. Lombardi said that although reforms within the Vatican bureaucracy are taking time, he had no doubt that the commission will arrive soon.

“I’m waiting for it, and I hope with all my heart (and I know that qualified experts have been contacted in an exploratory way to see if they would be available),” he wrote in the email. “And I hope that the commission will also be able to propose to the Pope initiatives adapted to give a true broad impulse in the Church for the active protection of minors.”

Regarding what has been described as the Pope’s “defensive” tone, Fr. Lombardi said that it was a recognition of the fact that while the Church has been committed to repairing past failures, it has “not been recognized objectively.”

“At the same time,” Fr. Lombardi noted, “it is clear that there is still an immense task to do for the past, for the present and, even more so, for the future. The Pope knows this well.”

Bishop Finn,Bishop Finn. Maybe Bishop Finn covered up for abusive priests because he did not know what we know today regarding recidivism for sex crimes.Or  that great harm was done to victims.He's a product of his time as they all are.Was it wilful ignorance or naivete?Were nuns who hit or humiliated children willfully ignorant or naive about the harm they were doing?That has to be addressed and adjudicated. Why hold him to todays  standards that are the result of new knowledge? In any lay criminal proceeding ,the intent,the mindset  of the acussed is as much a factor in determining guilt and penalty as the actual act.Real transparency means really acknowledging that fact ,as unpalatable as people angry at the church  find it.

The Vatican appartchik speaking for the Vatican (not at all to be confused with the Church btw), is carrying on a tradition of never taking responsibility, blame, failure, or contrition for any of its many sins of both commission and ommission. This is Lent and should be a time of collective penance for sins. Look at the reaction to Benedict's prayer at the station of the cross or even John Paul II's document on the purification of memory.

But I will end there as I have my own penance to do as well.

@ rose-ellen caminer 3/6/14 - 9:18am:

Where does one begin with all these incoherent ramblings?  This posting is a real piece of work.  But, since these words demonstrate some of the real attitudes of too many uninformed Catholics, they demand a response.

After all the mea culpas, the apologies,  the taking responsibility,the exposes, the reforms taken to dismantle the culture that allowed the abuse to be rampant and covered up for so long, after all the prosecutions,the convictions and defrocking of priests, after all the steps taken to ensure children are protected going forward,what more do people want regarding this issue?

What people want is justice, not forced apologies from hierarchs designed more to mitigate legal and financial liability for sexual assault and exploitation of children by priests than reconciliation.  As any parent should understand, justice demands real consequences as a deterrent against future abuse.

The work is being done to care for the victims.Humilty ,contrition has set in, The church like it or not, like the rest of society, did not have adequate  knowledge about pedophlia, homosexuality,and sexuality in general as we do today

If this were true, then the hierarchs have spent $millions hiring hot-shot lawyers to go into court and re-assault survivors seeking redress of grievances for nothing - a waste of money.  From my own experience, the hierarchs went "doctor shopping" to get sympathetic mental health professionals who would confirm the sick narcissistic ideology and mythology that the perpetrators and the hierarchs are above the law that applies to the rest of us, but not to them.  Are you suggesting that hierarchs - who are supposed to be moral and pastoral shepherds - didn't understand that rape and sodomy of children is morally wrong in all circumstances and also criminal?  What delusional denial are you talking about?

[W]ith the knowledge we have today ,with the reforrms for transparency and lay input in the working of the church,there is no legitimate reason to be fixated with the crimes of the past.At this  point the question arises; is this about accountability for crimes of the past or just sheer anger at the patriarchal hierarchal structure of the church?  The church is working to  be  more feminine,more inclusive ,more horizontal. If this is about sheer anger that the world contains much evil,then that righeous anger could extend to evil that occurs today.

Where are all this supposed "transparency" and "lay imput?"  Francesco's words reported yesterday seem to align him with the masters of complicity JP2 and B16.  And why are we Catholics going through with this canonization of JP2 with what we know of his close involvement with criminals like serial child abuser Marcel Marciel and Legionaires of Christ?

"Fixated with the crimes of the past" - Really?  Fixated is what clinically you would say about celibate hierarchs' obsessive attention to human sexuality and their on-going attempts to control especially women's reproductive health care.  The survivors of rape and sodomy when they were children by their priests are NOT suffering from a fixation - it is a symptom of post-tramautic stress disorder (PTSD).

This statement really takes the cake:

To rail like that cannot be ,or cannot be for US; in the church, is; for ADULTS still railing about their past, a form of prissiness, or pride;a refusal to accept the human condition,a  denial practically of our need for God. 

Rose-Ellen, you have swallowed the hierarchs' Kool-Aid completely.  Snap out of it!  Are you suggesting that priests raping and sodomizing children are part of the human condition?  That is not only outrageous, but twisted.  You need to re-read the parable of the Good Samaritan:  It was the Samaritan who acted with the compassion and love of God toward the man left in the ditch by the side of the road [like priests did to the survivors of their assaults] - not the priest or the Levite who passed by unaffected by the pain and misery of whom Jesus considered their "neighbor" and "brother".  Get a clue.

How  anyone can say that the Vatican[PART of the church,point taken] is carryng on a tradition of never taking responsibility, when all these reforms are in place, when they've  acknowledged the evil they caused to flourish by covering up for offenders, and  when out reach to victims continues to take  place,  baffles me. If you do not believe the sincerity of the Vatican's professed contriton, that's your opinion. But it is obviousl that objectively the Vatican has acted and continues to act to acknowledge the scandal as evil and  the Vatican as partaking in the evil, both by failure to recognize the harm being done to children and/or  covering up for the offenders even when it was clear to them children were harmed.The Vatican has enacted  reforms to change the culture that permitted the evil to go unstopped for so long.If you want them to say they knew all along that pedophlia was  an incurable addiction  then that may never happen because the facts are that no one knew that then.Yes they sinned when covering for a priest[s] who raped or abused  a child[ren]. They have admitted the sin of taking care of their own over the vicimized children.People sin.That's not flippant but you can't undo the past. The scandal happened because ,people WERE ignorant about such sexual matters  as   pedophia, and recidivism,and ignorant  perhaps of  the harm done to children  in non rape situations AND because even when/if  they knew harm was done to children people were willing to cover up, to sin to protect their own.Both facts have been admitted by the Vatican.What more do you want?There's nothng else there.[I'll go read Bendict's prayer and John Paul 2's document].

Bernard: Where exactly did I attempt to read Francis's mind? I criticized what he said in the interview, and the strange delay in naming the members of his commission on sexual abuse. "But nothing in the bearing of the pope or in documents like 'The Joy of the Gospel' supports the view that in this issue he is just saying and doing the 'same old thing.'" Leaving aside the distinction between mind-reading and bearing-reading, the problem with that part of the interview is precisely that he said the same old thing. So I'm afraid I can't agree that I lack the "necessary evidence" to criticize what the pope said. Because he said it.

Ms. Caminer - before making statements such as:

 "Maybe Bishop Finn covered up for abusive priests because he did not know what we know today regarding recidivism for sex crimes.Or  that great harm was done to victims.He's a product of his time as they all are.Was it wilful ignorance or naivete?"

would ask that you do your homework.

Please read this link to the historical documents of this case:  http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2011/05_06/2011_06_07_Scalia_BishopFinn.htm

Amazed - you must live in a bubble to not be aware of this case and thus make the foolish statement above.

Highlights:

- did you know that Finn upon becoming bishop of KC wrote a diocesan paper about online pornogrpahy....so, yes, he did know about this.  And, your statement appears to assume that Finn has lived in a bubble - no awareness of high profile cases and bishops since 2000 e.g. Boston, LA, Chicago, STL, to name a few.

- "Julie Hess, St. Patrick’s principal, was able to fuse a mosaic of apparent non-events into a coherent picture of pathology. In May of 2010, she reproduced this picture in a 28-paragraph report (pdf), which she sent off to the diocese.

[Finn] sat on a summary given him by Msgr. Robert Murphy, his Vicar General, until several months later, when he learned that Ratigan possessed pornographic images of children. Even then, he declined to inform police for several more months until Ratigan violated his orders by consorting with minors. By pre-2002 standards, it was a B+ performance; by today’s, a D.

Bishop Finn — who says he was never given the actual report and had based his earlier decisions on a summary report that did not reflect the urgency of the issue — has made an apology — actually he has made several, now — for his foolish errors"

I wrote on Cardian O'Malleys Blog for him to explain why no appointees were made to the commission yet. I suggest that all of us do the same. http://www.cardinalseansblog.org/2014/02/28/attending-the-consistory/#re...

Granting that he is not everyone's cup of tea, and prominently in his own thinking, is no longer a Roman Catholic, I found Rod Dreher's post a few days ago on the opening of Lent in the Orthodox calendar to be interesting.  Dreher attended the opening Vespers of Forgiveness, with his Metropolitan taking the lead in prostrating himself to ask for the forgiveness of, first, his fellow Believiers.  It is a powerful image, not least in regard to this thread's issues.  And not least at the opening of Lent in our calendar.

Of course, form is not all that is needed, but for those who subcribe to a Sacrametal vew, it is important, indeed.  Suffer the little children ....  (and, in this context, the adults who were so deeply injured as children. Let every Bisop, starting in Rome, prostrate himself  before them, and all of us, also.  Surely they are - and were at the time - part of the Body of Christ?  How have they - let's keep the focus - been served by their Church?  How are they being served?  Untl tey ae served as they wuld ha beenserved by Jesus, can we be Reconciled?

Mark L.

Now we know where Pope Francis stands on the issue of the sex abuse of children within the Catholic institution, and it hurts. He states: "The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No other has done more. And, the Church is the only one to be attacked"-------

His defensive words are very hurtful to so many thousands of victims who were hoping that, just maybe, Pope Francis might be different. That maybe he really does care about protecting innocent children.

Sadly the pope is badly misinformed about the church officials being responsible and transparent. Or he is just following the same old archaic rhetoric that the previous popes have done. Child sex abuse and cover up by the clergy under his power does not seem to be a big deal to him. Francis words could make a person cry, if we had any hope at all that he might take some decisive actions to get this horrific abuse and cover up stopped.

Tragically the sex abuse and cover up within the church hierarchy throughout the world is still going on to this day. Cardinals and bishops are still not removing accused predator clergy, and they are still not reporting to law enforcement. Their so called "zero tolerance" policy is not being followed by the bishops who created it. They don't have to, because there is no punishment to force the bishops to change their ways of protecting their image and the institution rather than protecting children.

Child predators need to be kept far away from kids forever. So silence is not an option anymore, it only hurts and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.

Judy Jones, "SNAP" the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests,

 

As Francis said if  you make him superman then you are lying in wait for him to fail. “Like when it is said, for example, that I leave the Vatican at night to go to distribute food to the homeless. It never crossed my mind. Sigmund Freud said, if I am not mistaken, that every idealization is an aggression,” he said. 

While I am eager to see Francis do more, our approach should be to apply pressure until all options are exhausted. So i agree with grant while cautioning those who are drawing definitive conclusions so soon. 

rose-ellen--

The case of Bishop Finn is NOT an old one.  The evidence against the offending priest was discovered in 2010!!   The scandal blew up in Boston in 2002, and that, apparently, was when most of the American bishops had the scales fall from their eyes.  They finally realized the results of their cover-ups and did something (though not enough) to change their culture.  Apparently, however, Bishop Finn's blindness persisted, and he was convicted of the crime of covering=up the priest-perps' crimes (pl.).  Therefore, Bishop Finn should be removed from office because of his gross incompetence if not for his sins. But he's still there, the Pope must know it, and has chosen to leave the criminal there. 

Why do you keep making excuses for such people?  Yes, it's sad for Bishop Finn if he was acting according to his own (distorted) conscience.  But what about the children he has failed to protect?  What about justice for them?  Why is he more important to you than a vulnerable little child is?

About what Francis said on women, I too found it disappointing, especiallyhis  reference to Hans Urs von Balthasar ... von Baltjasar once wrote a complementarianist paper (http://www.womenpriests.org/classic3/balthasar.asp) on why women couldn't be priests. And all the Marian stuff seems very patronizing to me. The pope doesn't seem to get that giving women some managerial jobs at the Vatican will not at all address the women's ordination issue. I'd say most women want to be priests for the same reasons most men want to ... they feel called by God ... it's not about getting a management level job. As Francis Clooney SJ oncew wrote ...

This issue -- does God call women as well as men to ordination? -- seems likely to remain one of the great divides in the Church of the 21st century, and we all, men as well as women, are, or should be, suffering through the experience. That the Vatican has definitively ended the discussion does not make it less likely that many will continue to have hearts rent by the issue. I am sure God hears many a prayer, many a day, on the topic. But no matter what we think, there is room for quiet lament, and particularly those of us who are ordained should feel this sadness mingled with the joy appropriate to anniversaries of ordination. The priesthood is, as I have said, a great gift, and I know how very sad it would be to have been barred from it, from the start or along the way. I can only try to imagine the sentiments of a woman who has experienced, with humility and conviction, this calling, faced as she is with the prospect of the Church’s insistence that it is incapable of ordaining women -- as if to say: "Even if God calls, the Church cannot."

 - http://americamagazine.org/node/124078

If you do not believe the sincerity of the Vatican's professed contriton, that's your opinion. But it is obviousl that objectively the Vatican has acted and continues to act to acknowledge the scandal as evil and  the Vatican as partaking in the evil, both by failure to recognize the harm being done to children and/or  covering up for the offenders even when it was clear to them children were harmed

Rose-Ellen: the church hierarchy has lied many times before on this subject, so we cannot believe what is said if it's just words. We need to see actions. You say that the Vatican "has acted". I acknowledge that, nowadays, whenever an accusation of abuse becomes public, the Vatican immediately suspends the accused (even if he is an archbishop) and, if the case is clear, promptly laicizes him. That's action, and it's progress, but it's not enough. What more needs to be done? At least two things, one of which is sometimes done, sometimes not done, and the other one is never done: first, do not sit on accusations but pursue them appropriately. Finn (recently!) failed to do that, and the bishops' record in that regard is very uneven. Second, bishops who have covered-up abuse must be removed from positions of responsibility, and so far that is not done at all. 

  

What Ann wrote.

Grant et al: Why should anyone suggest that the pope is less interested in responding appropriately to the clergy sexual aabuse issue than he or she is? In the light of what I have seen of the pope, such a suggestion is implausible. 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?

It does not follow that I ought not to express concern, to implore, to urge the pope to take action. The new NCR editorial about this does a good job in this respect. But that doesn't entail that there may not be very good reasons for the pope not to act exactly when and as I would have him act. 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.

So I suggest: Think mercy and forgiveness toward the pope, just as you and I need mercy and forgiveness every day. Without unconditional fogiveness as our basic disposition we are all too likely to be destructive rather than constructive.

Pages