Pope Ignores Accountability in Letter to American Bishops

For immediate release: January 3, 2019

As American bishops meet outside Chicago for a week of “prayer and self-reflection” the Vatican’s request, Pope Francis has sent a letter explaining what he hopes comes of this retreat. Unfortunately, his letter ignores the most critical issue of all: accountability for bishops who conceal sex crimes.

The Pope's letter clearly shows the self-centeredness of Vatican officials. In one brief sentence, he mentions victims. But his concerns, in order, are that "the church has been badly shaken," lay people have been "confused," the "communion of bishops" has suffered and the church's credibility has waned.

Only half-way through his letter does he mention what should be his highest priority: "protecting those in our care."

The Pope’s letter is long on platitudes but short on the words that survivors and advocates want to read. Not once in his eight-page, 3,500+ word letter does Pope Francis speak to the urgent need for accountability for bishops who conceal clergy sex crimes.

Rather, he acknowledges the pain that such cover-ups have caused, but to the church, not to victims. He laments the loss of credibility the church has suffered, the “uncertainty” and “distrust” growing among the faithful, and the state of “division and dispersion” among bishops. Not once does he mention the distrust, pain, or confusion felt by the primary victims of cover-ups: the victims themselves.

In other words, he refuses to admit or understand that this crisis is continuing and that kids and vulnerable adults are still being hurt today. Despite publicly calling for action, his decision to ignore the issue of accountability in this letter belies his claim. It appears that Pope Francis is instead content to continue the church's glacial pace at dealing with this on-going threat.

Pope Francis can continue to ignore survivors and their pleas for accountability while speaking platitudes to his brother bishops. We will continue to look to secular officials like Lisa Madigan, Gurbir Grewal, and Josh Shapiro for action on the clergy abuse crisis. Leaders like these three have done more in the past three months than the church has in three decades.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)v


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  • Joe Charles
    commented 2019-01-07 12:18:48 -0600
    The letter is typical convoluted Churchspeak. The solution to the abuse problem is strict law enforcement and revising statutes of limitation and confidentiality laws. Forget trying to work with the Church…..just more of the same self serving garbage.

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