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Pope Francis Apologizes For Priest Sex Abuse

A public statement:

I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests, quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests, to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children. The Church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children…

Excellent words. Let’s see some excellent action. SNAP’s David Clohessy responds:

Pope Francis says he felt “called to take upon himself” the subject of clergy sex crimes and cover ups. He should. He is the world’s only global monarch and he continues to let this decades-old crisis fester and build by refusing to take even a single step that protects a single child or exposes a single wrongdoer.

Reuters says he is “using some of his strongest words yet” and Religion News Service says “in his strongest personal remarks yet. . .”

But if a husband keeps beating his wife, the tone, tenor or length of his words are irrelevant.

Words – whether few or many, vague or clear, weak or strong – do absolutely nothing for the boy who is being sodomized today or the girl who is being raped today. They do nothing to divulge even one carefully-hidden church record about a complicit bishop. They do nothing to help fix archaic, predator-friendly secular laws. They do nothing of substance, especially now, especially in this context: a scandal-ridden, secretive, self-serving church hierarchy that wants to pretend real change is happening.

Nice words are especially meaningless and disingenuous when uttered by a powerful man who could instead make practical reforms.

We agree with Pope Francis that Catholic officials understand, to some extent, the damage that has been done. Sadly, that understanding has lead to little real change.

And the damage is still being done. It’s disingenuous to pretend, by using the past tense, that kids are not being sexually violated and predators are not being transferred and cover ups are not being perpetuated right now.

The Pope also asked for forgiveness today. We believe it is dreadfully duplicitous for the Pope to ask forgiveness from hundreds of thousands of suffering victims and millions of betrayed Catholics while doing virtually nothing to spare hundreds of at-risk kids from heinous sexual violence right now.

UPDATE: Here are comments from links posted in the comments section. First, someone put up this essay by Lee Podles, the orthodox Catholic writer who has done deep investigation on the scandal. Excerpt:

Francis is a fixer. Whenever a parish or diocese experience a disaster, a fixer is sent in, as O’Malley was to Boston. Francis is the papal fixer. He is changing the subject from sexual abuse by his charm, hominess, and willingness to let people indulge their minor vices without a censoring voice from the clergy.

A fixer differs from a reformer in that a fixer does not address the roots; he is not radical. He merely papers over the problem, merely puts a poultice on the cancer.

Karadima is a terribly abusive priest in Chile. The archbishop of Santiago told him to stop saying mass in Public. Karadima ignored the order, and photos of him saying mass were tweeted to tens of thousands of people.

A prominent Chilean priest who was ordered by the Vatican to never again celebrate a public Mass as punishment for sexually abusing altar boys has been photographed apparently defying the order.

Chile’s top church leaders confirmed the Rev. Fernando Karadima’s act of insubordination Friday and sent the case to the Vatican for investigation. The photos were taken Dec. 4, but they were only released this week by Juan Carlos Cruz, a journalist and one of Karadima’s victims.

“It’s a very painful situation that shows that this priest continues to do as he pleases,” Cruz told The Associated Press. “It’s a slap in the face for the victims of his abuse. He should be in jail but instead he’s still being protected by the church.”

The Roman Catholic Church retains a firm grip on Chilean society, although in recent years its influence has waned after scandals in which priests have been accused of molesting children. Victims say Karadima began abusing them at his residence at the Sacred Heart of Jesus church in Santiago about 20 years ago, when they were between 14 and 17 years old.

The Vatican sanctioned Karadima by ordering him to a life of “penitence and prayer” in 2011. He was also barred from celebrating Mass in public, from hearing confessions or offering spiritual direction and from having contact with his ex-parishioners. A Chilean judge later dismissed a criminal case because the statute of limitations had expired, but she determined the abuse allegations were truthful.

The timing of the photos’ release appeared aimed at embarrassing both the current and former archbishops of Santiago, who were in Rome for Saturday’s ceremony to name current Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello a cardinal.

The victims in Chile say the retired archbishop, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, failed to act on accusations that they were abused by Karadima, who was long one of the country’s most popular priests. They say the cardinal declined to even meet them.

[Back to Podles:] Pope Francis’s response: he made Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello a cardinal. This sends a clear message. The Vatican does not care how a bishop handles sexual abuse cases.

Francis has not appointed the sexual abuse commission he promised. I will be flabbergasted if he appoints anyone like Tom Doyle or Richard Sipe, someone who knows the problem from the inside.

This one is from an essay by the Byzantine Catholic writer and academic theologian Adam DeVille. Prof. DeVille says that the early canons of the Church are ruthless in their treatment of priests who engage in sexual sin — even consensual sexual sin with adults. They are removed from the clerical state. Boom, done. DeVille:

If the pope’s new commission wants or needs some advice, then I think the early canons provide it: any sexual sin is grounds for immediate and permanent dismissal from any and all offices in the Church, up to and including the episcopate. But more than this needs to happen, and here we do not need another commission: we need ruthless papal action, and friendly Francis may be precisely the person to deliver it with a fist of iron underneath his ermine glove.


For too many Catholics, the most infuriating aspect of the abuse scandal over the last 12 years and more has been the way in which bishops have escaped accountability, particularly bishops who shuffled priests around or did not act swiftly and decisively to root out the problem. Whose blood has not boiled at seeing Bernard Cardinal Law swan about his cushy sinecure at St. Mary Major in Rome? He should have been locked away in a rough cell in a monastery on an island in the White Sea, allowed out twice a day for Mass and scrubbing toilets. And a similar fate should today befall any bishop who covered up abuse or failed to remove abusive priests from the priesthood immediately and permanently. If Pope Francis’ new commission is to be effective and the Church is to put this scandal behind her once and for all, then let the sackings begin. Nothing short of this will be sufficient to regain the bishops’, and thus the Church’s, shattered credibility.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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