Paedophilia scandals sully merciful Pope’s reputation

The Times (UK)

Tom Kington, Rome

The sexual abuse charges against Cardinal Pell will further sully what critics say is the Pope’s inadequate record of tackling priestly abuse.

Francis has won praise around the world for his focus on mercy over doctrine, but many believe he still does not comprehend the gravity of abuse in the Church. In 2014 he appeared to be on the right track in creating a commission to advise on weeding out predator priests but, three years on, two of the commission members, Peter Saunders and Marie Collins — themselves victims of abuse by clergymen — have left amid frustrations over its perceived inaction.

In 2015 the Pope provoked an outcry when he described as “lefties” the opponents of a Chilean bishop accused of covering up for an abuser. The same year, Jozef Wesolowski, a former archbishop accused of paying shoeshine boys for sex in the Dominican Republic, died before he could face trial.

The accusations against Cardinal Pell are the latest in a wave of abuse scandals which started in the US before spreading to Europe and Australia over the past two decades, and which marred the papacy of Francis’s predecessor, Benedict. Francis has himself been accused of overlooking abuse while archbishop of Buenos Aires.

“The Pell case will rock the Vatican to the core,” said Mr Saunders, who questioned the Vatican’s appetite for reform. “Pell will have the best lawyers, while our abuse commission lacked resources,” he added.

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