Promises, promises: but little progress for papal commission on abuse


September 28, 2017

By Phil Lawler

A week has passed since Pope Francis promised to take “the firmest measures” to stop clerical abuse. Then again, you might say that a month has passed, or three years have passed, or maybe a bit longer, since the Pope said essentially the same thing. How many times does the same promise deserve a headline?

Last week the Pope was meeting for the first time with the special commission that he had set up three years ago to take action on sexual abuse. The commission has seen defections by frustrated members, who report that the group was disorganized, underfunded, and widely ignored by other Vatican offices and many national bishops’ conferences. Even now one commission member reports that “many local churches” have established guidelines for handling abuse; some still have not.

It would be an understatement to say that progress has been slow for the papal commission. In his address to the commission, Pope Francis admitted that he regrets having overruled a decision to remove an Italian priest who had been accused of abuse—and who, restored to ministry, promptly collected new complaints. The Holy Father said that he was “learning on the job” himself.

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