Pope Francis image rightly tarnished by child abuse comments

By Markham Hislop

March 9, 2014

Recent remarks by Pope Francis are a throwback to conservative Pope Benedict XVI.

Is Pope Francis the face of a new Catholic Church? Or is he just public relations window dressing on the same old medieval institution?

A new poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion suggests the pontiff’s everyman style, focus on poverty, and more modern comments on subjects like homosexuality and the afterlife have earned him a great deal of good will around the world.

According to Angus Reid, half of respondents to the survey of Canadians, Americans and Britons (Catholic and non-Catholic) view Pope Francis in a positive light, while 44 per cent have a neutral view. The rest (7%) view the Pontiff negatively.

And 58 per cent see the new Pope as having “an elevating effect on the Church.” The polling company’s release says that 36 per cent of respondents consider the strong public profile of Pope Francis as a good thing and 36 per cent say it makes the Church more interesting and relevant. Most chalk it up to his personal style (51%).

Not surprisingly, sexual abuse by Catholic clergy remains an area where respondents want to see Pope Francis take more action. Only a quarter of respondents say he’s done enough, though practicing Catholics are much more positive on this issue. Canada was the least forgiving country, America the most.

And it is the sex abuse issue that continues to bedevil the Pope Francis and the Church, as it should.

Pope Francis recently defended the Church, saying “”No-one else has done more. Yet the Church is the only one to have been attacked.”

This is patent nonsense. The ongoing investigation – and unhappy revelations that have followed – into Canadian residential schools for aboriginal children is but one example of investigations into sex abuse by non-Catholic religions and organizations.

Pope Francis also tried to deflect the focus from the Church, saying “The statistics on the phenomenon of violence against children are shocking, but they also clearly show that the great majority of abuses are carried out in family or neighborhood environments.”

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