St. Francis was the greatest reformer in the history of the church, Pope Francis must do the same

St. Francis was the greatest reformer in the history of the church, Pope Francis must do the same

There is no greater example of courageous reform in the history of the Catholic church than St. Francis of Assisi. He lived with and demanded justice for those in our society that have been victimized and destroyed by the powerful.  During his time he stood up an challenged bishops and cardinals and the Pope. 

Thousands of victims of childhood rape and sexual assault by priests have been, like St. Francis, courageously coming forward around the world and demanding that the Catholic Church stop the cover up of sex crimes by clergy.

Pope Francis must, as his very first act, decree the zero tolerance of sexual abuse of children by priests. This one act would, in a single stroke of his pen, protect millions of children from harm, bring justice to hundreds of thousands of victims of clergy sexual abuse, and turn the church finally on a path towards true healing, recovery and reform.

Amazingly, across most of the world today if you are a priest and have been found by your bishop to have raped or sexually assaulted a child, you can remain in the priesthood and in ministry, your crimes left secret and unpunished.

Most of these child molesting priests are secretly transferred into new assignment by their local bishops, with the approval or indifference of the Vatican. An alarming number were also transferred across state and international boundaries, deploying the unique geographic reach of the church and its command structure, which remains steeped in secrecy, to facilitate the concealment and flight of child sex offenders. In essence, criminalizing a part of the Catholic church as an organization. This is especially true of religious orders, like Pope Francis’ own Jesuit order. Pope Francis has a special responsibility to hold accountable Jesuit official around the world who has covered up child sex crimes.

The new Pope also comes from a part of the world that often lacks human rights protections for children. The cultural and religious power of the Catholic Church and its deference for priests makes it difficult if not impossible for children who are abused to come forward and report the crimes happening to them. It’s likely there will be a new wave of abuse reports by priests that will occur from these parts of the world.

There is no better advice to Pope Francis on how he must deal with child sex crimes by priests and cover up then from St. Francis himself: “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 12,000 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. Visit us at SNAPnetwork.org.

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  • commented 2013-03-14 19:12:16 -0500
    A wise saying and advice from Pope Francis: "“Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Let’s hope he follows it himself.
  • followed this page 2013-03-13 18:16:31 -0500
  • commented 2013-03-13 17:58:24 -0500
    What I would like to find out today, if possible, is if this new pope, has already demonstrated in his youth any, or in fact all of the qualities you ascribe to St. Francis? (There is no greater example of courageous reform in the history of the Catholic church than St. Francis of Assisi. He lived with and demanded justice for those in our society that have been victimized and destroyed by the powerful. During his time he stood up and challenged bishops and cardinals and the Pope.)

    Do you know, if archbishop bergoglio in his capacity as first priest then later archbishop demonstrated any of those very qualities during that time of his own life? Or, is it that you’re hoping he just may be “coming late to the party”? I don’t know, I always thought that St. Francis was a rather young man when he demonstrated all of these wonderful qualities? No?
  • commented 2013-03-13 17:27:09 -0500
    I believe this comment of yours, bears repeating:

    “Pope Francis must, as his very first act, decree the zero tolerance of sexual abuse of children by priests. This one act would, in a single stroke of his pen, protect millions of children from harm, bring justice to hundreds of thousands of victims of clergy sexual abuse, and turn the church finally on a path towards true healing, recovery and reform.”

    I am fearful that this new pope will not be as wise and courageous and his namesake.

    So, I pray that your suggestion – demand reaches him and that he actually does make this decree, now.

    So far, the media have not emphasised the specific attributes of St. Francis, that you have. So far, they’re basically talking about his “wonderful vow of poverty” and are talking about how this new pope used to take the public transportation “to work”…and cook his own meals.

    The media it seems to me, nearly always just want to “make a star-tudded celebrity” out of all and any new leader of anything…they seem to defer and aqueiesce and nearly fall over themselves to heap praise, and/or, define with their own limited knowledge and understanding of a new member of the power structure (of anything), status! I should probably shut off my tv, just because of that aspect of media. I guess I rather naively keep hoping I will learn something of real substance, about archbishop bergoglio, now pope francis…without having to wait days months or even years, to find out his true character. Yes, in light of the history of child abuse by priests worldwide, I am impatient to know.
  • followed this page 2013-03-13 15:59:42 -0500