Pope Decries ‘Persecution’ of Catholic Church Through Accusations
By Francis X. Rocca
Wall Street Journal
October 27, 2018
Pope Francis told a gathering of bishops from around the world that the Catholic Church is being persecuted through accusations—an apparent allusion to clerical sex-abuse scandals that have undermined the credibility of the papacy and church hierarchy over the course of this year.
Addressing the closing session of a synod of bishops at the Vatican on Saturday, the pope repeated warnings he has made in recent weeks against the “Great Accuser,” or the devil, who “in this moment is accusing us strongly, and this accusation becomes persecution,” and who seeks to “soil the church.”
“This is the moment to defend our mother” the church, said the pope, in remarks unlikely to mollify critics who say he has failed to recognize the hierarchy’s responsibility for the abuse crisis. “The accuser is attacking our mother through us, and no one touches our mother.”
The gathering of more than 250 bishops was dedicated to the topic of youth, exploring how the church can better engage young Catholics and help them find roles in the church, whether as priests, nuns or lay members.
In a twist on the usual protocol at such gatherings, more than 30 lay Catholics below the age of 30 years attended the sessions, where they enlivened the atmosphere by clapping and cheering during some of the speeches.
A published agenda for the meeting made only passing reference to sex abuse, but after months of scandals in the U.S., Latin America and Australia—and the claim by a former Vatican diplomat that Pope Francis himself had ignored sexual misconduct by a U.S. cardinal—the subject inevitably loomed over the proceedings.
Bishops frequently addressed clerical sex abuse during the first week of the monthlong synod, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Ireland told reporters on Friday.
The 60-page final document, released late Saturday, devoted two paragraphs to the subject of abuse, calling for “rigorous measures of prevention,” starting with the selection and education of clergy and other church employees. Quoting Pope Francis, the document lays much of the blame for sex abuse on “clericalism,” or an excessive deference to the church’s hierarchy.