From sex abuse to money, 2018 tested Pope Francis on reform


December 26, 2018

By Inés San Martín

[Editors note: This is part two of Crux Rome Bureau Chief Inés San Martín’s look back at Pope Francis in 2018.]

When he was elected to the papacy in March 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio knew he was chosen on a “reform” mandate. However, it’s been unclear what reform means for Pope Francis: revitalizing the public image of the Church, addressing the global clerical sexual abuse crisis, reforming the Vatican itself or leading Catholics around the world into a “pastoral conversion.”

Francis was forced to address reform on multiple fronts during the past 12 months, all testing him in different ways.

Sex abuse

Long gone are the days in which Pope Francis was elected person of the year by virtually every major news outlet in the world. In fact, for the first time since he was elected to the papacy in 2013, this year marked the first in which his name generated little to no buzz when the Nobel Peace Prize was approaching.

That’s at least partly because 2018 was a year in which the Church had many unfortunate headlines, most of which turned around the clerical sexual abuse crisis: the Pennsylvania report; the case of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, accused of sexually abusing at least three minors in addition to dozens of seminarians; Chile, where the May resignation of all the bishops was only the tip of the iceberg; and Australian Cardinal George Pell, a former member of the pope’s council of cardinal advisors, facing two trials over historical clerical sexual abuse.

All these scandals meant that this year, much of the pope’s political capital collected over the past four years was squandered. His calls for defense of migrants and protection of the environment, for instance, went largely unheeded.

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