Pope Francis encourages more abuse accountability and survivor 'welcome centers'; SNAP responds
(For Immediate Release April 29, 2022)
Once again, Pope Francis has handed down an order to the Pontifical Commission for the protection of Minors, headed by Boston Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley. The new directive instructs the Commission to "work with bishops around the world to establish special welcome centers for victims and to audit the church’s progress on fighting abuse from its new perch within the Vatican."
SNAP members and our allied organizations have called for accountability and transparency for decades. The Pope placed more emphasis on this today, and also highlighted the fear of losing more of the Church’s faithful due to distrust of the hierarchy. That trust has been eroding for years. In a meeting of bishops in Rome in February of 2019, discussions were held on how to protect children in the hope it would rid the institution of sexual abuse and rape.
We believe the message Pope Francis has sent to the commission to "work with bishops" worldwide will get lost in translation and never receive the cooperation it deserves. Policies and procedures have never been missing, it has been the failure to remove abusers and to hold hierarchs who conceal their crimes accountable. In other words, the flagrant disregard of existing policy. In fact, many of today’s bishops celebrate weekly masses on altars above the crypts of their own dioceses’ deceitful predecessors. Current Church officials may not have been responsible for their failures, but they apparently still lack the will to come clean about what happened in the past.
One of the new mandates for the commission is to help bishops’ conferences establish "survivor welcome centers," where victims can find healing and justice. As ambitious as this may sound, it is hard for us to believe that survivors of sex abuse would ever entertain entering a center manned by the very institution that has minimized and hidden these horrific crimes, and escaped justice for doing so thousands of times over.
While we remain skeptical of this new order by Pope Francis, we recognize some good things within it. For example, we are glad that the Vatican is specifically recognizing that bishops throughout the world have truly done nothing for victims of abuse except prolong the pain, delay resolutions, and denounce legislation that would allow individuals who have been time-barred from justice their day in court. CHILD USA reports twenty-seven U.S. States and Territories have revival or window legislation for expired civil claims. There is more work to be done.
But ultimately, the one thing that survivors and advocates have been asking for is accountability from the Church hierarchy. Yet again, the Vatican has made a grand pronouncement on the issue of clergy abuse while failing to follow through with penalties for prelates accused of egregious conduct or involved in cover-ups.
We hope the soon to be updated Dallas Charter, first published in 2002, will include participation and input from survivors and advocates. Identifying and removing abusers is important to prevent future crimes, but it is even more important to punish those who enabled the abuse in the first place. By our accounting, 13 Catholic clergy, religious brothers, nuns, and other staff or volunteers have been criminally charged so far this year. Abuse is not just in the past of the Church, it is still happening today, and likely will continue into the future.
CONTACT: Michael McDonnell, SNAP Communication Manager ([email protected]), 267-261-0578), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009) Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President ([email protected], 814-341-8386)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)