Why Francis sometimes may be a prophet without honor in his own land


January 25, 2018

By John L. Allen Jr.

News Analysis

Pope Francis just concluded the 22nd international trip of his papacy, to Chile and Peru, and it says something about the media honeymoon he’s enjoyed up to now that it’s really the first such trip about which pundits and commentators could have a meaningful debate over whether it was a success or a failure.

It may also say something about the wisdom of Jesus’ saying, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place, and among his own kin and in his own house,” that Francis’s first could-be flop came in South America. (I make the distinction here between South America and Latin America because the dynamics are often different in Central America.)

On the pope’s trip, controversy centered around Francis’s response to the clerical sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, and specifically, his handling of the case of a bishop in Chile who’s been accused by victims of that country’s most notorious pedophile priest of knowing about their abuse and covering it up.

In a nutshell, Francis apologized to victims for the enormous wrongs they’ve suffered, and also reiterated his commitment to a “zero tolerance” policy. He met privately with victims, in order to hear their stories and to share their pain.

At the same time, he did not yield an inch on the case of Bishop Juan Barros, one of four Chilean prelates accused of being in on the cover-up. There’s been pressure on Francis to remove Barros ever since he named him to a small southern Chilean diocese in 2015, but the pope made crystal-clear that’s not going to happen.

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