Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pope Francis Addresses Clergy Abuse During His Visit to Philadelphia

In a prior post, I expressed dismay at how little attention Pope Francis gave to clergy sexual abuse during his U.S. visit. I may have spoken too soon. This weekend, Pope Francis had much more to say about the clergy abuse crisis plaguing the Catholic Church, but was it enough?

On September 27th, Pope Francis met with five survivors of childhood sexual abuse at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, according to Huffington Post. Pope Francis met with the survivors for 30 minutes and delivered a message of remorse.
"Words cannot fully express my sorrow for the abuse you suffered. You are precious children of God who should always expect our protection, our care and our love. I am profoundly sorry that your innocence was violated by those who you trusted. In some cases the trust was betrayed by members of your own family, in other cases by priests who carry a sacred responsibility for the care of soul. In all circumstances, the betrayal was a terrible violation of human dignity.

For those who were abused by a member of the clergy, I am deeply sorry for the times when you or your family spoke out, to report the abuse, but you were not heard or believed. Please know that the Holy Father hears you and believes you. I deeply regret that some bishops failed in their responsibility to protect children. It is very disturbing to know that in some cases bishops even were abusers. I pledge to you that we will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead. Clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children."
Pope Francis also touched on clergy abuse during a Sunday speech to clergymen, according to Huffington Post. During a September 27th address to American bishops at the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, he grieved over the harm causes by clergy abuse. "God weeps", he told the audience, assuring them that perpetrators would be held accountable.. "The crimes and sins of sexual abuse of children can not be kept secret any longer."

David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), was unimpressed. "Is a child anywhere on earth safer now that a pope, for maybe the seventh or eighth time or ninth time, has briefly chatted with abuse victims? No," he wrote in a September 27th statement.
"Almost every survivor cares most about prevention. That’s also what helps us heal best: knowing that our pain prompts action that might spare even one child a lifetime of devastation from sexual violence.

Francis and his colleagues, however, refuse to take that action. Brave and bold on other topics, here Francis plays it safe and timid. He and his underlings prefer to talk ‘healing.’ It’s safer, easier, less controversial and more comfortable than the hard work of prevention. (The more skeptical would also point out that it’s more self-serving to talk ‘healing’ than initiate reform.)

Kids are safer when we acknowledge that every day, several boys and girls are being sexually assaulted by Catholic clerics. Every day, thousands of Catholic officials selfishly sit on secrets about child molesting clerics that police and prosecutors could use to pursue and prosecute these criminals.

So we beg Francis to stop acting like the abuse and cover ups are over and that only healing is needed. That’s disingenuous and dangerous."
Pope Francis shares kind words abundantly, but time will tell if he is serious about holding clergy perpetrators accountable. Were his Sunday talks merely good PR, or will he back up his words with concrete action?

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