Editorial: Sexual abuse claims must be acted upon

The Copper Era (Greenlee County AZ)
January 23, 2018

We’re big, big fans of Pope Francis.

We love the fact that the pope condemns those who would turn away the poor and those in need in order to bolster profits, saying such an act is not Christian.

He’s been critical of the actions of the church, saying the church, in recent years, wasn’t following the teachings of Christ, specifically Christ’s commandments to love one another without caveat (yes, that means having respect for the LGBTQ community).

He has eschewed much of the glitz that goes along with the job of pontiff, opting to live in plain, almost barren quarters.

In other words, he doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. And that’s why we like him.

He was on his home continent of South America last week and, once again, did something we really like — he apologized for the child abuse scandal that rocked the church in the ‘90s and 2000s.

While in Chile, Pope Francis said he felt “pain and shame” over the scandal that rocked that country, and asked for forgiveness from the victims. He’s also created a Vatican committee to seek out instances of child sex abuse in the church and make sure the abusers are appropriately dealt with.

Forgiveness isn’t the same as reparations, but it’s good to see the pope is unwilling to sweep the issue under the rug, unlike many of his predecessors.

But then he did something else that bothers us. He said there was no proof that a Chilean bishop covered for a priest found to have sexually abused children, and thus would take no action. This despite many of the priest’s victims claiming that not only was the bishop aware, in at least one instance, the bishop was allegedly in the room when abuse took place (there is no accusation the bishop took part in any abuse).

By the way, the priest’s punishment wasn’t jail time; in 2011, the Vatican sentenced him to a lifetime of “penance and prayer.”

Francis’ response appears to dismiss what seems to be valid accusations, especially given that the victims were correct about the priest. And that’s troubling because it’s the same type of action his predecessors took, allowing the abuse to continue for decades or more.

We’re also conflicted because the pope appears to be going with the “innocent until proven guilty” line of reasoning, and on that we agree. It’s one of the reasons we’re troubled by the repercussions being felt by many men in Hollywood who have been accused of sexual misconduct by actresses and female staff.

Yes, we want abusers to pay for their misconduct. And yes, too many men have, for far too long, been abusive toward those unable to fight back, whether it’s because of physicality (such as the children who were sexually abused by priests) or because the men held the power to hire or keep women employed. That needs to stop, and the only way to make it stop is for those type of men to understand there are serious repercussions to such action.

However, an accusation alone shouldn’t result in someone’s losing his job and becoming a social pariah; there has to be some proof and a fair hearing of some sort.

We’re not ready to dismiss all the good Pope Francis has done because of one misstatement or misstep; however, the issue of priests sexually abusing children is too big of an issue to ignore. We hope the pope has listened to the complaints being raised by Chilean victims, takes their issue to heart and makes moves to properly address the situation.


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