Pope Francis’ Gesture Towards Sex Abuse Victims Wasn’t Nearly Enough



On Sunday, as it turns out, the rubber of Papa Francesco’s visit to the United States finally met the road of the crimes committed by the individuals and the institution of the Roman Catholic Church here in America, and around the world. On his last day in Philadelphia, the pope met with people who had been sexually abused by members of the clergy belonging to the church over which, if you believe the tradition, the Holy Spirit chose this pope to preside. All during the trip, the scandal was the bustling in the hedgerow. The pope’s remarks to the bishops in Washington in he praised them for their “courage” in soldiering on in the face of their own crimes were greeted with outrage by survivors and their families, who correctly pointed out that Bernard Cardinal Law, one of the most egregious conspirators, is still soldiering on in his comfy billet at the Basilica Of Our Lady Of The Clean Getaway in Rome. In Philadelphia, by all accounts, the pope was gentle and understanding, but he also apparently remains stuck in an unhelpful and truthless paradigm regarding the offenses against God and man that were committed within the Church.​​

“Is a child anywhere on Earth safer now that a pope, for maybe the seventh or eighth time or ninth time, has briefly chatted with abuse victims? No,” SNAP Director David Clohessy said in a statement. The pope said he promised to “zealously” protect young people and that “all those responsible are held accountable…” When he talked to the abuse victims, who weren’t identified, the pope said: “I am deeply sorry for the time when you or your family spoke out, to report the abuse, but were not heard or believed. Please know that the Holy Father hears you and believes you. I deeply regret that some bishops failed in their responsibility to protect children.”
​Sorry, Papa Francesco. Not nearly enough.—​

In a few weeks, a movie called Spotlight will be released. It concerns the courageous efforts of reporters at The Boston Globe to blow the lid off the scandal in the Boston Archdiocese. (It also has various actors and actresses playing friends of mine, which is very weird, although, if the trailer is any indication, Mark Ruffalo nails Mike Rezendes, my pal of nearly 40 years.) The reason that the Globe was able to do this—​and to touch off the explosion of similar revelations in dioceses around the world—is because a brave editor named Marty Baron saw something that the pope still does not. What occurred in all those rectories and choir lofts was not a series of unpardoned sins. It was an index of unpunished crimes. What occurred in the chanceries of the diocese was not a widespread institutional failure, it was an ongoing conspiracy to obstruct justice. The appropriate punishment for these crimes was not the loss of your rank and position within a religious institution. It was the loss of your freedom. There are people within the church who belong in jail. Period. My god, Dorothy Day would have burned their basilicas down—​rhetorically, of course.​

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