Rome--Another vague papal apology for sex scandals

For immediate release: Wednesday, Oct. 14

Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP outreach director (314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])

Instead of stopping clergy sex scandals, Pope Francis is again asking forgiveness for them. That may be good public relations but it’s irresponsible leadership.

History, psychology and common sense show that you prevent sexual violence by harshly punishing those who enable sexual violence by ignoring or hiding it. It’s that simple.    

But that takes courage, the courage that popes and bishops continue to lack.

Forgiveness is healthy. But it’s best done when harm is over, not while harm is still happening. And it’s a personal choice that affects each of us individually. Leadership, however, requires public choices that affect others. So it’s more important that Francis stop abuse than that we forgive him for it.

Our forgiveness doesn’t protect the vulnerable. Only Francis’ action can really do this. But asking to be forgiven is self-serving. It’s not taking action. It’s not safeguarding the vulnerable. It’s perpetuating, not preventing, sexual violence.

At some point, words become substitutes for deeds. Words can lead to complacency. That’s what’s happening here.

The notion that “At least Francis is talking about this” is not helpful. It implies that talking leads to doing, and that’s just not true in this crisis in this ossified, ancient, self-serving church hierarchy.

Not all noise is music. Not all motion is progress. Not all words are helpful. And words should never be mistaken for deeds. Only action protects innocent kids and vulnerable adults.

Finally, no Catholic asks for forgiveness in the confessional booth for “unspecified” misdeeds.

We must name our wrongdoing. We must insist on the same from Francis.

(Time and time again, Francis refuses to get specific about clergy child sex crimes and cover ups. In the US recently, he called this crisis “difficult moments.”

Finally, we disagree with Joshua McElwee of the National Catholic Reporter. Francis’ words are not “extraordinary.” They are disappointing. And they’re increasingly hollow.

(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

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected])


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