|The Monitor | Pope Francis & Accountability | July 15, 2014
Pope Francis’s meeting last week with six clergy sex abuse survivors made headlines worldwide – not only because it was his first encounter with the church’s own victims, but because he made the first promise by any pope to discipline complicit bishops: "All bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable."
Pope Francis must now internalize his message about Church leaders who "did not respond adequately to reports of abuse." Our research has revealed that such accountability must begin with the Pope himself.
What is known of the Pope's past response to clergy sex abuse has been documented in a comprehensive report by BishopAccountability.org. Our work began last year, soon after the former archbishop of Buenos Aires became our first Latin American pope. We gathered and translated hundreds of Argentine court documents and news articles into English. We located and interviewed Argentine whistleblowers and survivors, including four who had sought then-cardinal Bergoglio's help but were ignored by him. We researched the Argentine legal code and wrote summaries of cases involving 42 clerics. The result was a 17,000-word report in English and Spanish, including detailed studies of the crucial cases, a database of the accused, and profiles of the survivors who sought the future Pope's help. We believe it to be the Internet’s most thorough analysis of clergy sexual abuse in Argentina and of the Pope's role as archbishop.
Last week, our research and insights were cited by the Washington Post and New York Times, in two reports each by NPR and Reuters, by GlobalPost, AP, and papers in Europe. One longtime Vatican reporter said our report had been “crucial," and NPR's top European correspondent noted our unique role:
News anchor, NPR: Sylvia, what was Pope Francis's record on the issue of sex abuse before he was pope …?
Sylvia Poggioli, NPR’s Rome correspondent: Little was known in the English-speaking world until the Boston-based group BishopAccountability.org recently published a report … [more]
For the first time in Francis's papacy, his troubling past performance on clergy sex abuse is being widely considered.
Now he has finally met face-to-face with the church's own wounded for the first time, and perhaps he will be changed by the experience. For specific recommendations of what he must do next, see the statement we issued last week. Better yet, read the moving open letter sent to him last week by Argentine survivors, empowered now despite the impunity of Argentine bishops and their country's victim-hostile laws. Their anguish is being heard worldwide.
Anne Barrett Doyle
Founded in 2003, BishopAccountability.org is based in Waltham, Massachusetts, USA, and documents the crisis of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. It offers an online collection of more than 100,000 pages of church records, legal documents, and media reports. Its hardcopy archive is approaching one million pages. The mission of the organization is to give the public convenient access to information pertaining to the abuse crisis in the U.S. and worldwide. An independent non-profit corporation, BishopAccountability.org is an archive and a data center. It is not a victims' advocacy group or a reform group.