Another appalling papal comment on abuse crisis
For immediate release: Friday, Sept. 25
Twice in two days, Pope Francis has made vague and brief references to the on-going abuse and cover up crisis, mentioning the pain of church staff but not the pain of abused children and betrayed parishioners. He refuses to even call the scandal by its name.
“In his homily before a crowd of priests and nuns,” reported CNN, Francis said "You suffered greatly in the not distant past by having to bear the shame of some of your brothers who harmed and scandalized the Church in the most vulnerable of her members," and referred to a time of "pain and difficulty."
Today’s Washington Post reports “At a news conference in New York, the Rev. Federico Lombardi was asked why the pope had spoken twice now — Wednesday to bishops and Thursday to seminarians and religious sisters, among others — about the abuse crisis, but never named it explicitly and focused on encouraging the clergy without speaking first about victims.”
And today’s New York Times noted the same troubling pattern – talking about how clergy child sex crimes and cover ups impact other clergy.
Francis has made similar disturbing comments about the crisis before, claiming last year that “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have moved with transparency and accountability” on abuse “Yet the Church is the only one to be attacked
An innovator in other ways, this pope is a throwback on sexual violence. He talks and acts like the church hierarchy is the real victim in this crisis.
He seems humble and preaches “service” but like so many other clerics, Francis seems to put church officials above the rest of us.
Shortly into his papacy, Francis criticized “self-referential” church officials. But he seems to be falling prey to this temptation himself.
We’ve long sought better papal actions more than better papal words. We still do. But this degree of insensitivity is hurtful. It deters victims, witnesses and whistleblowers from reporting child sex crimes, known and suspected. When in 2015, even this pope minimizes and mischaracterizes this crisis - calling it “difficult moments” for instance – where’s even the hope, much less the evidence, of change? Why bother speaking up if even Francis sees the scandal only through the eyes of clerics?
When he meets with a tiny group of carefully-chosen victims soon in a carefully-choreographed setting, Francis will no doubt work harder and will convey compassion. But he’s dug a deeper hole for himself this week by these depressing, misguided remarks. Worse, he’s set back the cause of prevention.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has 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)