We’ve talked a lot since the election of Pope Francis about how he has an enormous duty to protect kids and help prevent future sex abuse. But just because there is a new Pope doesn’t mean we can give church officials who have previously covered up crimes against children any slack.
In one of those amazing moments, we were on the square getting ready to head back up the hill when a reporter rushed up and said come with me. He brought us to meet Francesco Zanardi, a fellow survivor, from Savona.
In his first hours as the new head of the church, Pope Francis made a self-effacing joke, carried his own luggage, rode on a bus, paid his hotel bill and asked his flock to bless him.
Then, he visited Cardinal Bernard Law.
“What’s best for kids, a pope from a developed nation or a developing nation?”
That’s what a journalist asked us today. Her theory was that in developed nations, prelates dealt with abuse more and that their experience would be helpful.
We disagree with both premises.
Experience can be positive, but only if one learns the right lesson from it. No prelate on the planet had dealt more with abuse than Benedict. Yet his experience apparently taught him that little in the church needed to change.
What do we hope to achieve?
We want to educate parishioners and the public about this ongoing crisis, especially regarding the church officials who continue to protect predators and endanger kids, some of whom will pick the next pope, and one of whom may become the next pope.
We went leafleting last night about Fr. Juan Baptiste Ormechea. He and five other admitted or credibly accused US predator priests are living and we fear working here in Rome (or have done so recently). With a little help from a kind volunteer, we had an outreach flyer translated into Italian. It explains who we are and why we were passing out leaflets. People were very polite and accepted our flyers. As all of you know so well, leaflets are an amazing tool and almost always help us to find survivors and warn communities about dangerous predators living nearby.
Another beautiful and sunny day in Rome. Everyone tells us we are lucky as rain is normal this time of year. We are trying to cover as much ground as possible and often split up.
Off to the airport! We make the first flight easily and after a mad dash through the Atlanta airport we board the flight to Rome. We know we should sleep but are too excited and nervous! We land and catch the Leonardo Express into the city center. After a quick shower we are off to our first event. Great media coverage!
Jim Stang is a bankruptcy expert. He’s been involved in nine Catholic institutional bankruptcies-more than any other attorney. In 2010, he was named “Bankruptcy Lawyer of the Year.” He knows this stuff.
Watch out for papal candidates to start posturing on abuse. On the eve of the last conclave, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger made one brief mention, in a highly publicized talk, of “filth” in the church.