A lowly US county judge did more yesterday to protect kids than the most powerful prelate on the planet. Yesterday, Judge John Van de North forced the Catholic archbishop of St. Paul/Minneapolis to disclose the names, whereabouts, statues and work histories of about 30 credibly accused child molesting clerics.
Yesterday, as he’s done for eight months, Pope Francis refused to disclose a single predator's name. Nor, as best we can tell, did a single one of the planets 5,000 Catholic bishops disclose a single predator’s name.
The pontiff is at least consistent: In 15 years as head of Argentina’s largest archdiocese, he also did not disclose a single predator’s name. (In fairness to the pope, however, none of his predecessors as pope or as archbishop - ever revealed a single predator’s name.)
Yesterday, Pope Francis did, however, announce he'll appoint a new church panel to look at abuse.
So yesterday, the earth’s most powerful religious figure promised to study clergy child sex crimes.
And yesterday, a lowly US judge actually prevented clergy child sex crimes.
We’re grateful to Judge Van de North. And we’ve disappointed in Pope Francis.
To current and former Catholics who are pondering where to report known and suspected clergy sex crimes, we hope this provides you clarity. Disclosing such information to church officials, not secular officials, is irresponsible.
And by the way, one reporter said that the Pope’s new panel will be “pro-active.” Really? In the U.S. alone, church experts admit there may have been 100,000 victims of clerical sexual abuse. Now another of the hundreds of church abuse committees will “study” pastoral responses to abuse victims. That’s “pro-active?”
Between 2001 and 2010, the Vatican reviewed allegations concerning about 3,000 priests covering a 50-year time period. Again, Pope Francis’ response is to pick some prelates to “study” this. That’s “pro-active?”
It sure doesn't feel that way from where we sit.