Victims Want Real Change from Pope
In less than a year Pope Francis has changed the image of the Church by preaching tolerance and wading into crowds to embrace the sick. Few doubt his sincerity. But there’s one area in which the Church hasn’t changed in image or substance: Its stance on child sex abuse by the clergy.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child meets this week in Geneva to, among other things, investigate child sex abuse by Catholic clergy. The Vatican is sending representatives and announced it will put together another panel to look into the issue.
But survivors of sex abuse don’t need another commission or for the Vatican to continue in the same plodding, evasive and in some cases criminal manner. For example, the Vatican recently declined to order the release of the names of bishops who transferred and hid pedophile priests over the years, saying it has no legal authority to do so.
Instead, victims need the fresh approach Pope Francis is bringing to other areas of the Church. They need the Vatican representatives to be open and forthright with the UN committee. They need the immediate release of the names of the clergy and employees who abused hundreds of thousands of children. They need the bishops identified who hid and protected pedophile priests, sometimes for decades, by transferring them from parish to parish.
Victims need clerics to lobby for, not against, local laws protecting children from sexual predators. They need the Church to make public every document or scrap of paper concerning a credible accusation of sexual abuse. They need the Church to be completely open and honest on the issue of clergy abuse. They need the Church to change. No matter how sincere, more expressions of regret in Geneva won’t stop pedophile priests today any more than it undoes the abuse of the past.
It’s great news that an independent group, the U.N. committee, is finally examining the issue of clergy sex abuse in the Catholic Church. The only better news would be if Pope Francis extended his compassion toward the sick and disenfranchised to the victims. And the best way to do that is for the pope and the Church to hold accountable those who sexually abused children or participated in its cover-up, and to release all internal documents concerning the abuse.
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