True Peace is the Result of Action, Not Public Relations

by Barbara Dorris & David Clohessy

A humble salute to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee for awarding the prize to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai for promoting human rights for all children.

The committee’s decision to not give the award to odds-on favorite Pope Francis was the right and logical move. Both of this year's laureates' strong and decisive actions have led to dangerous physical attacks, yet each remains a voice for our most vulnerable populations. Their words are commensurate with their actions.

On the other hand, Pope Francis has yet to take any real action to protect children. Vatican committees and meetings don't protect children from abuse. Rebuffing United Nations panels does not safeguard the vulnerable or heal the wounded. Letting abusers and the clerics who cover up for them remain in positions of power tells Catholics that their children are not a top priority. And so we wait.

Kailash and Malala didn’t wait to carefully negotiate the political complexities and personalities within the child labor factories or within the Taliban. They took real action. 

Kailash and Malala have faced real threats, physical violence, and Malala was almost murdered. But neither of them have stopped their work. Pope Francis is a man of immeasurable power, and yet he will barely lift a finger to stop child sex crimes within his own organization. 

An example? Only the pressure of a front-page article in the Sunday New York Times led to a Vatican announcement that they would finally strip the diplomatic immunity of notorious sex predator, Jozef Wesolowski. That's not how an organization works towards peace, prevention and justice. 

It gets worse when we look worldwide - revelations of rampant child rape, molestation and cover-ups have blown up in Ireland, the UK, Australia and the developing world. Where is Pope Francis? Where is the accountability and where is the action?

The Vatican claims the 2002 Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is a "model" for other nations. But it's often not followed or enforced, in letter or spirit, by the bishops of the United States. As the National Catholic Reporter editorialized last month, the Charter is, “the only yardstick we have to judge church leaders' pledges to keep children safe.” What kind of model is that? It's a model for inaction.

Two recent stories right here in the United States depict the clergy’s disregard for the Charter.

A defrocked Seattle priest, David Jaeger—who admitted molesting children—was buried recently with full priestly honors. The highly visible funeral was celebrated by 20 priests on the altar and was in direct violation of nearly every rule on funerals in the Charter. It was a slap in the face to victims and shows the complete disregard the Archdiocese has for the rules, common decency, and Christian values.

No one opposes a Christian burial, but it should avoid rubbing salt into the wounds of already-suffering child sex abuse victims. Public celebrations of honor for an admitted predator violate the Charter and are designed to silence victims, witnesses and whistleblowers. A parishioner from the church where the funeral was held wrote to Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, “David Jaeger admitted in deposition, that he sexually molested 8 to 10 young boys and this sham does not change that legacy.“ Victims and concerned Catholics asked the archbishop why “policies to protect children were violated.” Now they wait for answers.

In Missouri, a bishop remains in his job despite a guilty conviction on child endangerment charges. The saga of Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn is well known. In 2012, he was sentenced to two years of court-supervised probation for covering up the crimes of Fr. Shawn Ratigan, who had taken hundreds of pornographic photos of young girls.

What has Pope Francis done? He has sent a Canadian archbishop to Kansas City to "examine" Finn's leadership. Finn can't even pass his own diocese's background check, has been convicted of a crime, and should have been removed immediately. But Francis makes us wait.

Catholics aren't willing to wait any longer.

Right after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded victims and active Catholics, including two generations of parents and children took to the street at the Seattle archdiocese because of elaborate funerals for predator priests. They aren’t waiting to insist that the Charter be followed.

If the Dallas Charter is all we’ve got and its implementation is at the whim of the clergy, the ensuing suicides, addictions, incarcerations and overall suffering caused by sexual abuse demand accountability from the clergy.

How many Catholics know the Dallas Charter exists? How many parish priests and bishops make sure that they do? Pope Francis and everyone else must make certain that zero tolerance means zero tolerance. The Nobel Peace Prize Committee has made clear that we all need to honor children’s rights with real action, not public relations.

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