Pope Francis tells Curia: ‘Spare no effort’ in bringing abusers to justice
21 December, 2018
Pope Francis strongly condemned clerical sex abuse in his annual Christmas speech to the Roman Curia Friday, promising that the Church leadership will never again cover-up abuse or treat such cases lightly.
“Let it be clear that before these abominations the Church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes. The Church will never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case,” Pope Francis said in Vatican’s City’s Apostolic Palace on December 21.
“It is undeniable that some in the past, out of irresponsibility, disbelief, lack of training, inexperience, or spiritual and human short-sightedness, treated many cases without the seriousness and promptness that was due. That must never happen again. This is the choice and the decision of the whole Church,” he continued.
The 40 minute address to the cardinals and members of the Roman Curia largely focused on the “scourges of abuse and infidelity.”
The pope delivered a decisive message to those “consecrated men, ‘the Lord’s anointed’, who today “abuse the vulnerable, taking advantage of their position and their power of persuasion.”
With his hands visibly shaking as he read from his prepared text, the pope addressed abusive clergy directly, telling them to prepare to face justice.
“To those who abuse minors I would say this: convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice,” Pope Francis said.
“Remember the words of Christ: ‘Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of scandals! For it is necessary that scandals come, but woe to the man by whom the scandal comes!’” he added.
The pope chose to focus his Christmas address on the struggles the Church faced in the past “turbulent” year. “This year, in our turbulent world, the barque of the Church has experienced, and continues to experience, moments of difficulty, and has been buffeted by strong winds and tempests,” he said.
Francis outlined what he perceived to be the different reactions from Catholics around the world in response to the sex abuse crisis.
“Many have found themselves asking the Master, who seems to be sleeping: ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ Others, disheartened by news reports, have begun to lose trust and to abandon her. Still others, out of fear, personal interest or other aims, have sought to attack her and aggravate her wounds. Whereas others do not conceal their glee at seeing her hard hit,” he said.
“Many, many others, however, continue to cling to her, in the certainty that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against her,’” he added.
The pope also thanked the journalists who shed light on the cases of sex abuse within the Church, “who were honest and objective and sought to unmask these predators and to make their victims’ voices heard.”
“Even if it were to involve a single case of abuse (something itself monstrous), the Church asks that people not be silent but bring it objectively to light, since the greater scandal in this matter is that of cloaking the truth,” Francis added.
He urged, “Please, let us help Holy Mother Church in her difficult task of recognizing real from false cases, accusations from slander, grievances from insinuations, gossip from defamation.”
In a possible indication of the scope of the Vatican’s February meeting to address the abuse of minors and other vulnerable adults, the pope said that the Church must confront the root causes of sexual abuse, both within itself and in the wider society.
“The Church will not be limited to healing her own wounds, but will seek to deal squarely with this evil that causes the slow death of so many persons, on the moral, psychological and human levels.”
“An effort will be made to make past mistakes opportunities for eliminating this scourge, not only from the body of the Church but also from that of society. For if this grave tragedy has involved some consecrated ministers, we can ask how deeply rooted it may be in our societies and in our families,” he commented.
At the February meeting, the heads of all of the international bishops’ conferences “will question, with the help of experts, how best to protect children, to avoid these tragedies, to bring healing and restoration to the victims, and to improve the training imparted in seminaries,” Francis said.
Pope Francis said he wanted to “stress the importance of a growing awareness that should lead to a duty of vigilance and protection on the part of those entrusted with governance in the structures of ecclesial and consecrated life.”
“The strength of any institution does not depend on its being composed of men and women who are perfect (something impossible!), but on its willingness to be constantly purified, on its capacity to acknowledge humbly its errors and correct them; and on its ability to get up after falling down,” he said.
The pope used the Biblical story of King David to analyze the sins of “abuses of power and conscience and sexual abuse.”
“Today too, there are many Davids who, without batting an eye, enter into the web of corruption and betray God, his commandments, their own vocation, the Church, the people of God and the trust of little ones and their families. Often behind their boundless amiability, impeccable activity and angelic faces, they shamelessly conceal a vicious wolf ready to devour innocent souls,” he said.
FRANCIS – ACTION! NOT JUST WORDS!
No one can reasonably disagree with Francis’ words to the Roman curia.
But we know that the vast majority of paedophiles would never hand themselves over to the police.
So Francis needs to put his money where his mouth is and:
- Dismiss ex cardinal McCarrick from the clerical state and make him a layman.
- Do the same to Pell if his conviction stands.
- Excommunicate all clerical child abusers. If you can be excommunicated for becoming a bishop without Rome’s permission surely you can be excommunicated for sexually abusing a child?
- Make crimes against children one of the most serious crimes in canon law.
- Set up national tribunals consisting of prosecutors, policemen, judges and social services to conduct investigations into accused bishops and priests.
- Hand over all files on bishop and priest abusers to the police.
When Francis does these things we will know he is serious.
Words are just too easy without accompanying actions.
The Pope Didn’t Go Far Enough in Urging Predatory Priests to Turn Themselves In
BY HEMANT MEHTA – Friendly Atheist
In a speech made this morning to Vatican administrators, Pope Francis urged priests to do what the Catholic Church has proved incompetent at doing: Weed out the abusers in their midst. He told predatory priests to “convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice.”
That might be great advice if anyone actually took the threat seriously. But if the priests didn’t follow the “Don’t rape kids” rule, it’s hard to imagine they’re going to fall in line with the whole “Turn yourselves in” approach.
It didn’t help that the pope also used his speech to go after critics of the Church who called out the abuse beyond merely reporting on it.
The pontiff also suggested that some critics of the Church are taking advantage of the scandals to inflict additional damage on it.
“Others, out of fear, personal interest or other aims, have sought to attack [the Church] and aggravate her wounds,” he said. “Others do not conceal their glee at seeing her hard hit.”
Dude. The critics (hello) who condemn the Church’s inaction aren’t throwing victory parties. We’re angry and appalled and infuriated that a giant crime ring has been able to continue functioning all because it’s dressed up in religion. If we weren’t talking about the Catholic Church, an organization with this many credible allegations of abuse and people at high levels covering it all up would’ve been shut down decades ago.
At no point did the pope go into detail about how individual churches would be punished for not being fully transparent with government officials investigating them. He didn’t say the Church was changing the intractable doctrine that leads priests to groom children instead of finding partners their own age. He didn’t call for a change in Vatican guidelines that call for bishops to turn abusers in to civil authorities only if the local law requires it.
Instead, he just claimed the Church would “never again” cover up sex abuse by religious leaders… which implies that, yes, they covered up sex abuse by religious leaders up until this very moment.
Keep in mind this comes the same week we learned that the discrepancy between abusers reported by the Church and abusers being investigated by law enforcement in Illinois was more than 500. While not all 500 will turn out to be credible allegations, it’s hard to imagine all of them will turn up nothing. Which means the cover up is still going on.
The speech might have been useful a few decades ago. Right now, it’s quite literally the least he could do. It was the equivalent of Republican Sen. Jeff Flake admonishing Donald Trump. We hear the words, but we see no meaningful action to back it up. At some point, the rhetoric itself just becomes a running gag.