To many, the headlines sound wonderful. To me, they’re heartbreaking:
“Pope Tightens Rules on Child Sex Abuse”
“Vatican broadens child abuse crimes in legal reform”
“Pope widens criminal punishment for child abuse in Vatican”
“Pope issues first penal laws for Vatican, criminalizes leaks of Vatican info, child sex abuse”
How can this be bad news?
It’s bad news because it’s deceptive. It will lead to inaction, not action, and to false security, not real security.
A closer look reveals a troubling truth: this “reform” affects .0000000007174% of the earth’s surface – the actual, physical grounds of the tiny, tiny 0.2 square mile Vatican state. That’s what it covers. Nothing more.
And like almost every other so-called Vatican “reform” about abuse, it’s words, not deeds. It’s a possibility, not a reality. I strongly suspect this “tiny tweak” (as we in SNAP have called it here) will never be used even once to punish a single wrongdoer.
Other popes have tweaked the church’s internal “age of consent” and statute of limitations on abuse.
The results have been negligible.
Think we’re overreacting? Then I challenge you: please email me (SNAPblaine@gmail.com) with even a single documented case in which these “tiny tweaks” have made a single difference in a single case. I can’t think of one.
(Reforms of secular laws, however, DO make a difference. Just ask the hundreds of predators who have been exposed, suspended, fired, prosecuted or sued because of secular statute of limitations reforms.)
Let me make a medical analogy.
It’s as if a doctor gives a cancer patient an aspirin. More cancer surfaces somewhere else in her body, her family raises a fuss, and the next doctor gives her an acetaminophen. More cancer is found someplace else, her relatives are justifiably outraged, and the next doctor gives her an ibuprofen.
In a nutshell: More cancer, more doctors, more pills, but no improvement.
That’s how the Vatican hierarchy – under John Paul II, Benedict, and now Francis – deals with the continuing crisis of clergy assaulting children and church officials covering up crimes. Virtually all show, no substance. And virtually all promises, no performance.