Pope Francis lacks moral audacity, avoids apology for clergy sex abuse – Barbie Latza Nadeau

Barbie Latza Nadeau“Executive director of SNAP Clohessy says that while the pope is a ‘master of symbolic gesture’ he seems to lack the moral courage to effectively address the Church’s most devastating crisis.  ‘He comes from the developing world where this crisis is still percolating and has yet to burst into the public arena and force a real Church response,’ he says.  ‘An effective pope must use both carrot and stick. He must be a pastor and a policeman.  Compassion is wonderful but only goes so far. When dealing with predators and enablers, anger is also necessary.'” – Barbie Latza Nadeau

Pope Francis: Aren't unsolicited kisses a form of molestation?There is no question that Pope Francis has put a shine on the tarnished Catholic Church through acts of humility and courage in the first eight months of his papacy.  Cold calls to Catholics and random acts of kindness—including  rumors that he regularly sneaks out of Vatican City at night to help feed the poor in Rome—have endeared him to the most ardent naysayers.  But the first Latin American pontiff hasn’t won everyone over quite yet.

Advocates of the clerical child sex scandal say the pope still has done little to address the Church’s disgraceful record on child abuse.  And on Monday, he seemed to miss another big opportunity to apologize for the Church’s sins.  In a meeting with 13 Dutch prelates in Rome, he apparently intended to flick at the issue.  According to prepared remarks given to those who attended the meeting, he was planning to say, “I wish to express my compassion and to ensure my closeness in prayer to every victim of sexual abuse, and to their families; I ask you to continue to support them along the painful path of Catholic Church: Charges will be made in the International Criminal Courthealing, that they have undertaken with courage.”  But those in attendance said he veered off script and instead held an open conversation with the clergy present, failing to focus on the sex abuse problem in the Dutch Church as he may have intended, according to the prepared remarks.  Last year, the Dutch government issued a harsh report against the Catholic Church after investigating more than 20,000 valid claims of child abuse by priests since 1945.  They called out the Dutch Church’s failure to “adequately deal with the abuse.”

Monday’s missed opportunity is not the first time this popular pontiff has punted on the issue.  In a broad interview published in several Jesuit magazines in September, he also chose not to address the issue at all, which disappointed many Catholics who were hoping to hear from the new pope on this contentious topic.  In another interview in October, this time with La Repubblica the pope again remained silent on the subject of sex abuse, missing what many Italians felt was a golden opportunity to put his views on the record.

David ClohessyAdvocates like David Clohessy, executive director of SNAP: Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests say that the pope doesn’t need openings to make an apology or do more.  “He needs no opportunity with his massive global bully pulpit,” Clohessy told The Daily Beast.  “He could have apologized any time over the past eight months.”

Clohessy says that while the pope is a “master of symbolic gesture” he seems to lack the moral courage to effectively address the church’s most devastating crisis.  “He comes from the developing world where this crisis is still percolating and has yet to burst into the public arena and force a real church response,” he says.  “An effective pope must use both carrot and stick. He must be a pastor and a policeman.  Compassion is wonderful but only goes so far. When dealing with predators and enablers, anger is also necessary.”

To be fair, Francis has a lot on his plate as he confronts the Church’s mountain of problems, including allegations of financial corruption.  In July, he did make child abuse illegal on Vatican grounds, including the creation and possession of child pornography and prostitution of minors.  Apparently that law had never made into the Vatican legal code.  But he also made it illegal to leak secret documents kept sacred in the Holy See, effectively enabling Church officials to continue to hide any evidence of a cover-up when it comes to sex crimes that have been reported to the Vatican.

Victims of clerical sex abuse protest in front of Vatican.Hope is not lost for real changes in how the Church deals with this delicate issue.  On Tuesday Francis began a two-day meeting with his papal posse of reforming cardinals who have been tasked with advising him about how to fix the ails of the global Church. It seems impossible to think that better handling the child sex abuse problem would not be somewhere near the top of their agenda.  Clohessy, who also worries that a papal apology would be a band-aid and only give the wrong impression that the Church is addressing the problem through dialogue rather than action, is not optimistic.  “Papal apologies these days mean nothing,” he says.  “One apologizes for harm when harm is done.  But the abuse and cover-up crisis continues. Adults can heal themselves with or without church officials’ apologies. Kids, however, can’t protect themselves without Church officials’ actions.” – The Daily Beast, 3 December 2013

» Barbie Latza Nadeau is an American journalist based in Rome. 

Francis as Pontifex Maximus

Pope Francis is the successor of Roman Emperor Constantine who gave the title ‘Pontifex Maximus‘ to the Bishops of Rome, not the ‘poor fisherman from Galilee,’ a fictional character in the Gospels whose historical reality has yet to be established. Constantine also gave his red shoes and red cape, worn only by emperors, to the Roman Bishops as the official vestment of their supreme pontiff’s office. –– Editor

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2 Responses

  1. Vatican refuses to give UN panel full details of clerical sex abuse cases – The Guardian – Lizzy Davies in Rome – 4 December 2013

    Holy See angers campaigners by not disclosing information requested by UN committee on the rights of the child

    The Vatican has refused to give a United Nations panel information it requested on clerical sex abuse, in a move that it said was part of its confidentiality policy but which was criticised as “a slap in the face” for victims.

    In a series of questions asked in the runup to a public hearing scheduled for January, the UN committee on the rights of the child had requested the Holy See provide details of abuse cases and specific information concerning their subsequent investigation and handling.

    But, in its response, the Holy See said that although it had answered the questions in a general way, it was not its practice to disclose information on specific cases unless requested to do so by another country as part of legal proceedings.

    In the 24-page document, the Holy See said it had been “deeply saddened by the scourge of sexual abuse” and regretted the involvement of some members of the Catholic clergy.

    It added that it had “amended norms” regarding the suitability of candidates for the priesthood, and had taken other steps including the revision of some canon law rules “to ensure that clerics and religious are properly disciplined”.

    But it did not give all the details requested by the committee in a lengthy, multi-part question on the “sexual violence against children committed by members of the clergy, brothers and nuns in numerous countries around the world”.

    The Holy See was asked to provide detailed information on all cases of child sexual abuse that had been committed by members of the clergy or brought to the attention of the Holy See over a certain period.

    As a whole, the document included responses on issues from child sexual abuse to gender stereotyping in Catholic schoolbooks and the abandonment of infants in church “baby boxes”.

    In a cover note, the Holy See said that the committee had in many instances asked it to respond on “concrete situations that fall outside the direct control of the Holy See, since they concern matters for which Catholic persons and institutions present in other countries are responsible”.

    The Holy See, which signed the convention on the rights of the child in 1990, argues that while it encourages the rights recognised on a global basis, it can only implement them on the territory of the Vatican city state.

    Campaigners reacted angrily to the response on sexual abuse, with Keith Porteous Wood of the UK’s National Secular Society branding it “a brazen failure”.

    “Many will be disappointed and surprised by this slap in the face to the tens if not hundreds of thousands of suffering victims and to a United Nations body,” he said in a statement.

    “It is both shameless and unacceptable for [the Holy See] to undermine the UN’s efforts, made in the interest of protecting past and future victims, by refusing to provide the information that the UN seeks.”

    The US-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents the Survivors’ Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the response marked one of the Holy See’s “most explicitly disingenuous and misleading positions on the issue to date”.

    “The response is vague and general, where the committee sought concrete data and facts,” it added in a statement.

    In May, Pope Francis said the Congregation of the Faith – the Vatican department that includes the office of the sex crimes prosecutor – should continue to act decisively on abuse allegations, “promoting, above all, measures to protect minors, help for those who have suffered such violence in the past and the necessary procedures against those who are guilty”.

  2. Goa’s BJP government plans to invite Pope ‘Humble’ to visit the state next year. They should think again. If he cannot apologise for the on-going scandal of sexual molestation perpetrated by his paedophile priests, he will not find the moral gumption to apologise to Hindus for the horrific crimes of the Goa Inquisition, the theft of Hindu properties and desecration of temples by the Catholic Church, or the bigoted cruelties committed by ‘St’ Francis Xavier in Kerala and on the Coromandel Coast. The pope is a Jesuit-trained showman actor who betrayed his own priests to the military dictatorship in Argentina when he was head of the Society of Jesus there, to save his own skin. He is treacherous and had best be left alone. His presence in India would not be welcomed by the people of India any more than the return of Catholic pirates Vasco da Gama and Francisco de Almeida would be welcome.

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