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Francis: Soft On Clerical Sex Criminals

Do you think Pope Francis decided to relax restrictions on pervy Cardinal McCarrick and bring him into his circle out of mercy? It wouldn’t be out of character for Francis. Take a look at this AP story from February 25, 2017: [2]

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis has quietly reduced sanctions against a handful of pedophile priests, applying his vision of a merciful church even to its worst offenders in ways that survivors of abuse and the pope’s own advisers question.

One case has come back to haunt him: An Italian priest who received the pope’s clemency was later convicted by an Italian criminal court for his sex crimes against children as young as 12. The Rev. Mauro Inzoli is now facing a second church trial after new evidence emerged against him, The Associated Press has learned.

The Inzoli case is one of several in which Francis overruled the advice of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and reduced a sentence that called for the priest to be defrocked, two canon lawyers and a church official told AP. Instead, the priests were sentenced to penalties including a lifetime of penance and prayer and removal from public ministry.

In some cases, the priests or their high-ranking friends appealed to Francis for clemency by citing the pope’s own words about mercy in their petitions, the church official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the proceedings are confidential.

“With all this emphasis on mercy … he is creating the environment for such initiatives,” the church official said, adding that clemency petitions were rarely granted by Pope Benedict XVI, who launched a tough crackdown during his 2005-2013 papacy and defrocked some 800 priests who raped and molested children.

This is not a pope who gets the horror of sex abuse. No wonder he won’t answer the Vigano questions.

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28 Comments To "Francis: Soft On Clerical Sex Criminals"

#1 Comment By James C. On August 29, 2018 @ 4:27 pm

Also why did he summarily fire two of Cardinal Müller’s secretaries in the CDF, whose job was to handle sex abuse cases?

Müller protested to the pope and asked for an explanation. The pope response was “I’m the pope, I do what I want, and I don’t need to give you any reason.” Of course Müller later found himself summarily fired himself.

#2 Comment By REJ On August 29, 2018 @ 4:27 pm

His motive may be mercy but it’s born out of clericalism – the idea that a man’s priesthood exalts him into such a superior ontological state that almost nothing on this earth should stand in the way of it’s exercise. This is spiritual pride.

#3 Comment By James C. On August 29, 2018 @ 4:32 pm

So he goes soft on clerical sex abusers as a favor to his allies, but comes down on the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (whose crime was to move to the traditional liturgy) like a hammer.

Bergoglian Mercy is a very arbitrary and capricious thing.

#4 Comment By sketches by boze On August 29, 2018 @ 4:38 pm

It sort of makes you appreciate Jesus, who was merciful to those who needed mercy and angry at those who deserved it. Somehow even the best of men struggle to manifest those passions the appropriate amount.

#5 Comment By WFK On August 29, 2018 @ 4:42 pm

I just recently (finally) read Francis’s interview with Tornielli announcing the Jubilee of Mercy ( [3]), and now none of this stuff surprises me. The way Francis talks about sin is as if it is always a wound that comes from without, that we can’t avoid, and that once God has forgiven us it is cruel and absurd for anybody to punish us for having been wounded. (Crime has a different logic.) Not only is he eager to forgive and show mercy to the worst sinners, he seems even to think that it would be better for upright people to fall into sin more often so that they remain sympathetic.

#6 Comment By Blooky On August 29, 2018 @ 4:50 pm

Maybe he isn’t horrified by it.

#7 Comment By JRF On August 29, 2018 @ 4:52 pm

The Cardinal Danneels situation should have been our first clue how Pope Francis approached clerical sex abuse and corruption … and that evidence was available the moment he walked out unto the Loggia. Many of us just chose not to read it that way.

#8 Comment By Ben H On August 29, 2018 @ 4:56 pm

“This is not a pope who gets the horror of sex abuse.”

I find it unbelievable how much of a throwback to the 1970’s this papacy is.

The idea that mercy = letting people of the hook for the consequences of their behavior is a very 70’s idea and was the norm in not only the church but also criminal law in the 70’s and 80’s (most of the big city DA’s would have been nominal Catholics). This is when cities, and the church, were falling apart into chaos.

Like then, the “mercy” idea was entirely about coddling offenders, no thought to the victims of abuse or crime. Mercy without Justice.

Even physically – take a look at the vestments in the Ireland family thing, these were clothing versions of the “Joy!” and “Rejoice!” felt which were at every guitar mass!

#9 Comment By Alcuin On August 29, 2018 @ 5:09 pm

I hope this gets some following up on. If it’s as described then it’s a pretty big story. Lifesitenews is reporting that former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (i.e. the most important office of the Vatican) Cardinal Mueller was forced out by Pope Francis for following the Church’s rules on abuse cases.

Also, of note: “…appeals had rarely been successful with Benedict XVI, who had removed over 800 priests from ministry”

BREAKING: Vatican Source: Pope dismissed Cdl Müller for following Church rules on abuse cases


#10 Comment By Carlo On August 29, 2018 @ 5:10 pm

I am starting to think PF’s problem may be a misunderstanding of paternity. Real mercy knows how to correct. I once read his father was a terrible authoritarian, maybe that’s why.

#11 Comment By Protestant Onlooker On August 29, 2018 @ 5:18 pm

Thanks for digging this up, Rod. I’ve been pondering whether in some weird way this catastrophe might in fact be just as much about the Pope’s naive understanding of theology as corruption, as evidenced by his lopsided notion of forgiving & forgetting terrible wrongs that he characterizes as “youthful indiscretions.” (Cited in one of your earlier posts.)

In any case, wither this type of mainsteam media reporting now? Still, the more I read your posts, the more it seems that this story is why “God Invented,” as the idiom goes, long form journalism. I can’t image a newspaper article connecting all the dots much less teasing out all the subtle “what is being said or not said” attack and counterattack claims.

(I have my own fantasy candidate & publication to nominate: Cullen Murphy at Vanity Fair. Maybe I am wrong, but Murphy strikes me a fair-minded. And he’s certainly capable.)

#12 Comment By William Tighe On August 29, 2018 @ 5:39 pm

A very timely posting, considering this:


#13 Comment By Todd Flowerday On August 29, 2018 @ 5:54 pm

If there were no restrictions, he certainly wouldn’t be soft. And if there were, maybe we should be petitioning for B16 to be defrocked. He knew. He imposed. Archb V refused to back it up. Maybe they never told PF.

I think you need to tone this one down, Rod. We need to see the paper trail on 2009 or 2010 or 2013 or whenever.

[NFR: Todd, please. You think I need to tone all of my posts down. — RD]

#14 Comment By slumlord On August 29, 2018 @ 6:07 pm

“Softness” with regard to sin is a very interesting concept. What I think we’re seeing here is the practical consequences of Francis’s understanding of “Mercy”. It was a philosophy that recently asserted itself with the Change in the Catechism with regard to the Death Penalty, something a lot of the commentators on this board cheered.

Francis’s (and the Church’s) relatively recent focus on Mercy to the sinner has come at expense of Justice to the Victim. Justice and Mercy are always in opposition and getting it right in a particular circumstance is a delicate balance. What seems to have developed in the latter half of the 20th C is a “preferential option for the sinner over the victim”. Don’t believe me, he is a quote from Benedicit’s letter to the Irish concerning the sexual abuse scandal.


Sorry for the long quote.

“The programme of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it. In particular, there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations. It is in this overall context that we must try to understand the disturbing problem of child sexual abuse, which has contributed in no small measure to the weakening of faith and the loss of respect for the Church and her teachings.

Only by examining carefully the many elements that gave rise to the present crisis can a clear-sighted diagnosis of its causes be undertaken and effective remedies be found. Certainly, among the contributing factors we can include: inadequate procedures for determining the suitability of candidates for the priesthood and the religious life; insufficient human, moral, intellectual and spiritual formation in seminaries and novitiates; a tendency in society to favour the clergy and other authority figures; and a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church and the avoidance of scandal, resulting in failure to apply existing canonical penalties and to safeguard the dignity of every person. ”

Lot’s of mercy for the Criminal, little justice for the victims.

I think you’re wrong to say that Francis wants to cover up for the criminals, rather what we’re seeing are the practical consequences of a philosophy of Mercy which ignores Justice. And this is a problem of contemporary Catholicism, something which spans the Conservative/Liberal divide. Essentially, the position of the Church at the moment seems to be that you can “love” any problem away, unfortunately that’s not the case.

It’s interesting that the whole Vigano scandal has arisen almost immediately after the change in the Catechism. It might be a total coincidence or then again it may not.

#15 Comment By KW On August 29, 2018 @ 6:08 pm

The longer this goes on, the more I’m leaning more toward the popular misconception of the Benedict Option than the concept in your book.

#16 Comment By Mitchell Palmquist On August 29, 2018 @ 6:55 pm

From 2014 and from a Francis-friendly source.

#17 Comment By Bob On August 29, 2018 @ 8:11 pm

This lady has real creds and is quite succinct. ..

#18 Comment By Lee Podles On August 29, 2018 @ 8:41 pm

As Benedict realized, and Francis does not, mercy and forgiveness are subtle concepts.

While raping a child, one priest told him, you have to forgive me for doing this, or you will go to hell.

Something is wrong with Francis’ conception of mercy, and he does not have the intellectual capacity to realize it.

#19 Comment By Anne On August 29, 2018 @ 9:21 pm

Mercy is often not deserved. Many of the priests involved in the abuse scandal are old and sick by now. Church and state may grant mercy in certain cases. The ones who abuse it will embarrass everyone who trusted that wouldn’t happen;the ones who don’t will be forgotten, as will all those who better deserved it and were left to rot. There’s nothing much to say in defense of mercy or in opposition after the fact. When bad things happen, mercy looks foolish, but who wants to live in a world without it? The merciful have to have a certain degree of trust, a degree some people will always consider foolish, and every now and then they appear to be right. So what have we learned?

But the pros and cons of mercy in this situation are beside the point. It’s the classic case of debating why somebody had beaten his wife without first proving there’d been a beating at all. The idea that Francis lifted sanctions on MacCarrick, no matter what the reason, just doesn’t jibe with the evidence, with the record of MacCarrick’s activities from 2009/10 when he was supposedly sanctioned through just a few months ago when he was finally “credibly accused” and publicly sanctioned once and for all by Francis himself. MacCarrick’s regular schedule of travels for Catholic Relief Services and other causes, his public Masses and speeches, awards receptions, fund raising events, etc. went on without missing a beat throughout the Benedict papacy and into that of Francis until only relatively recently. Go to any non-rightwing Catholic website, and you’ll find photos taken during the Benedict papacy, when MacCarrick was allegedly under the strict sanctions Vigano insisted Benedict put on him, and there he is smiling in the presence of Benedict. There is even one photo of the Pope greeting MacCarrick warmly at one of his final audiences as reigning Pope…and one of Vigano and MacCarrick posing together, smi!ing, during the same period. All were in direct violation of the sanctions, which supposedly denied him any public presence. To say MacCarrick was simply ignoring them just doesn’t explain either official’s readiness to be seen smiling, greeting and blessing the man. If MacCarrick was in trouble with either Benedict OR Vigano during those years, they both did an amazing job of disguising the fact. But why?

Benedict’s secretary has said the idea that Benedict has agreed any of this was the case is “fake news.” Wuerl has said nobody ever told him about any such sanctions, period. Of course, a cardinal’s bishop isn’t normally the one who imposes such sanctions. That’s apparently supposed to be the job of the Pope’s ambassador to the country involved, which would have been none other than Vigano himself from 2011-2013 (if that’s when those terribly strict prohibitions were lifted at last).

That just raises more questions, such as why did Vigano claim he heard about the MacCarrick sanctions in a conversation with Cardinal Re instead of as a matter of official course when he took over at the embassy after Sambi’s death? If imposing sanctions on a renegade cardinal was indeed part and parcel of his job, why does he tell the story of learning about them as a series of random conversations with Vatican personnel he had engaged in on the side?

But leaving aside all of these questions that are only pertinent if the sanctions were actually ever decreed, can you or any objective observer look at the behavior of MacCarrick or Benedict XVI from 2009 or 2010 on, and see any evidence the latter had imposed any type of travel or behavioral sanction on the former at all. Or for that matter, do you see a noticeable uptick in MacCarrick’s activities from early 2013 when Benedict was his boss to late 2013 or 2014 when Francis supposedly loosened his strings?

It seems to me this part of Vigano’s story has to be fully corroborated and measured against what we can see with our own eyes — at least once professional journalists have done their jobs, as Francis proposed — before we start asking why anyone was beating his wife.

#20 Comment By Hans On August 29, 2018 @ 10:32 pm

Mercy is a hallmark of the Christian ethos. Yet, particularly in matters where innocents are injured or someone persists unrepentantly in sin, Jesus and St. Paul give similar instruction: throw the bum out. [cf. Matthew 18:6-9; 27. 1 Corinthians 5:1-13]
Put more eloquently, of course, these instructions are undergirded by both Jesus and St. Paul insisting that religious leaders and teachers have the highest responsibility to act honorably and to protect those in their charge. Re-read Matthew 23 to hear the “woes” the Lord invokes upon religious leaders who are hypocrites or who lead their flocks astray. In 1 Cor. 5, Paul exhorts the church that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.” In other words, bad behavior influences others and affects the whole group.
While the entirety of the Christian life is one of repentance and regeneration, encased in the very mercy of God’s final sacrifice of Himself as Son, God understands that sometimes the only behavior modification is a “severe mercy” in which turning one out from the fellowship of the church might be the thing that finally “destroys the flesh but saves the soul” (1 Cor. 5:5)…AND protects others from pernicious sin.
The Catholic Church’s apparent disinclination to follow scriptural teaching in this regard mystifies me.

#21 Comment By Anne On August 29, 2018 @ 11:28 pm

Just for the record, to Edward Pentin trying to make it seem he and Archbishop Ganswein, Benedict’s former secretary, are on the same page by parsing his words of denial to make it seem he only said Benedict hadn’t confirmed “all” Vigano said, i.e., he didn’t say he hadn’t confirmed some of it, such as the part about there having been some sort of sanctions imposed, I say Das ist humbug! Ganswein said the report that Benedict had confirmed Vigano’s “testimony” — as in what he said — was “fake news,” period. I have been assured that the German language is no trickier than English on this score, and in English, when you deny somebody approved all of what somebody said, you’re denying he approved the parts as well…unless you stipulate otherwise at the time, which Ganswein did not do. He said “fake news.” How — or better, why — that would mean Benedict approved can only make sense once you’ve entered the overwrought world of Vatican insider intrigues and consiracy.

#22 Comment By Anne On August 29, 2018 @ 11:31 pm


#23 Comment By William Murphy On August 30, 2018 @ 2:23 am

I have seen a credible explanation of Pope Francis’ indulgence of offenders which does him little credit. He likes to have men with moral flaws around him so he can easily manipulate them. The classic example is Monsignor Ricca who inspired the infamous Who Am I To Judge soundbite. Pope Francis appointed him to a Vatican Bank post after his infamous conduct in Uruguay.

#24 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On August 30, 2018 @ 5:24 am

Those who think there is a contradiction between justice and mercy misunderstand both.
A just punishment, inflicted for correction and not for vengeance, is an act of mercy.

#25 Comment By Joe On August 30, 2018 @ 9:52 am

As a survivor of sexual abuse, I have found Pope Francis’ emphasis on mercy quite helpful for my own journey. As a father of four children, I often struggled between mercy and justice, which may appear to complement each other abstractly and are hard to implement together 🙂 . I appreciate that this Pope may err on the “side” of mercy. However, I do not accept any sign of erring on the side of enabling perpetrators of abuse. I am sad that I keep seeing signs of the Pope, much less the Bishops, of doing so. The truth helps us survivors in ways that are unimaginable and is the bottom line. Those who pursue the truth regardless of personal cost are the ones I trust.

#26 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On August 30, 2018 @ 10:36 am

I have seen a credible explanation of Pope Francis’ indulgence of offenders which does him little credit. He likes to have men with moral flaws around him so he can easily manipulate them.

I’ve seen that in other contexts too, not only in the church. Its a good way for an individual who wants to dominate any organization to accomplish that end.

#27 Comment By BF On August 30, 2018 @ 11:50 am

Francis cares more about priests than he does about children. John Paul was the same. Benedict I can’t quite tell.

It is time and past time to get these monsters out of power and look instead to normal human beings, whose first last and middle impulse is to protect human children, not pedophiles.

#28 Comment By slumlord On August 30, 2018 @ 6:57 pm

@ Giuseppe Scala

“A just punishment, inflicted for correction and not for vengeance, is an act of mercy.”

No, it’s an act of Charity(Cartias), not mercy. Mercy is the abrogation of desert and is directly opposed to retributive justice.

Justice always has a double effect, restitution to the victim and retribution to the perpetrator. Mercy, by it’s very nature, is inherently unjust.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should not be merciful, but we’ve got to realise that in doing so justice is being frustrated in some way.

As Aquinas said, “Mercy without Justice is the mother of all dissolution; Justice without Mercy is cruelty.” The Church seemed to apply mercy to the abusers without any sense of the need to give justice to the victims.