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. [Emphasis mine — RD]
Francis scrapped the commission’s proposed tribunal for bishops who botch abuse cases following legal objections from the congregation. The commission’s other major initiative — a guideline template to help dioceses develop policies to fight abuse and safeguard children — is gathering dust. The Vatican never sent the template to bishops’ conferences, as the commission had sought, or even linked it to its main abuse-resource website.
And so, the precious concept of mercy becomes a byword for perpetuating clericalism and injustice, swaddling it in a slanket of sentimentality.
I don’t get this. At all. Fifteen years since Boston broke the abuse scandal wide open, and … this?
UPDATE: This story reminded me that the victims’ advocacy group SNAP has been hit with a lawsuit by a former official:
The news of his resignation followed the Jan. 17 filing of a lawsuit from former SNAP development director Gretchen Rachel Hammond, who claimed wrongful termination for challenging the organization’s misbehavior. She had worked at the organization from July 2011 through February 2013.
Accusations against the group included alleged kickbacks from attorneys who were suing the Church on behalf of sexual abuse victims. Donations from sex abuse attorneys made up more than 40 percent of its annual contributions, Hammond said.
The lawsuit alleged that the organization disregarded the interests of abuse victims, neglected to provide sufficient counseling for victims, and used publicity about the victims to drive fundraising,
SNAP, together with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, had asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Benedict XVI and other Vatican leaders for crimes against humanity related to sex abuse by U.S. clergy. The group traveled to The Hague to make its case.
Hammond claimed SNAP used the funds raised for the trip “for lavish hotels and other extravagant travel expenses for its leadership.”
The lawsuit charged that “SNAP is a commercial operation motivated by its directors’ and officers’ personal and ideological animus against the Catholic Church.”