Rome--Pope on abuse cover ups: “More talk, no action”
For immediate release: Thursday, Feb. 5
Again, a pope “talks the talk” on abuse while refusing to take even one real step toward “walking the walk.”
Today, Pope Francis told his staff not to conceal clergy sex crimes. Sadly, this will have no impact whatsoever.
History, psychology and common sense all confirm what every parent knows: People emulate action, not words.
Ironically, some credit the pontiff’s namesake, Saint Francis, with the sage adage “Always remember to preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.” This is precisely what the pope steadfastly refuses to do on abuse and cover up. He’ll talk. But he won’t act.
He believes church officials shouldn’t live like kings. So he’ll sack the “bishop of bling” in a heartbeat while ignoring – and sometimes promoting – prelates who endanger kids, protect predators, and deceive parishioners about abuse.
The most decisive pope in memory who is quickly and dramatically changing church finances, governance and morale remains stunningly unwilling to deal in any meaningful way with the church’s greatest on-going crisis.
Thirteen years ago, Pope John Paul II said: “There is no place in the priesthood or religious life for those who would harm the young.” Today, Pope Francis said almost exactly the same words. (". . .there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse minors.")
Like their words, the actions of both men - with wounded victims, predatory priests and complicit bishops – are remarkably similar: few, tepid, belated and ineffective. Francis talks about abuse and cover up more, and says even nicer things. But he acts almost the same as his predecessors did.
Some praise Francis for ousting a Paraguay bishop who promoted a credibly accused predator priest. But Vatican officials insist the prelate was sacked for other reasons, not for endangering kids.
Some praise Francis for addressing a Polish archbishop’s child sex crimes. But in our view, he’s doing what virtually every Catholic official does – trying to minimize damage and maintain secrecy by dealing with clergy sex crimes “in house” rather than in the secular criminal courts.
Some praise Francis for appointing yet another church abuse panel. But in our view, that’s the last thing the church needs.
It’s devastating to read Francis say “Priority must not be given to any other kind of concern, whatever its nature, such as the desire to avoid scandal." That’s what has driven and still drives the actions of the church hierarchy in abuse cases: fear of hurting their own reputations and clerical careers. And until the Pope defrocks, demotes, disciplines, or at least denounces dozens of bad bishops, this will continu e.
The Associated Press is correct in reporting that “The (new abuse) commission has been slow getting off the ground.” It’s two years in to the Francis papacy and the group is holding its first full meeting this week and its last members were appointed six weeks ago.
But regardless of timing, unless these panel members show unprecedented courage, only more and better words – and more public relations and eventual betrayal – will results from their talks.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We were founded in 1988 and have more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)