In three years at the helm of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has been a source of inspiration for millions of faithful around the world. In one critical respect, however, he has fallen short of his own promise: to come fully to terms with decades of child sex abuse by clergymen and the institutional cover granted to them by bishops and cardinals.
Francis has pledged "the zealous vigilance of the Church to protect children and the promise of accountability for all." Yet there has been scant accountability, particularly for bishops. Too often, the church's stance has been defiance and obstruction.
In his trip to the United States in the fall, Francis told victims that "words cannot fully express my sorrow for the abuse you suffered." Yet his initiative to establish a Vatican tribunal to judge bishops who enabled or ignored pedophile priests has come to naught.
Meanwhile, church officials have fought bills in state legislatures across the United States that would allow thousands of abuse victims to seek justice in court. The legislation would loosen deadlines limiting when survivors can bring lawsuits against abusers or their superiors who turned a blind eye. Many victims, emotionally damaged by the abuse they have suffered, do not speak until years after they were victimized; by then, in many states, it is too late for them to force priests and other abusers to account in court.
In many states, the bishops and their staffs have successfully killed such bills, arguing that it would be unfair to subject the church to lawsuits in which memories and evidence are degraded by the passage of time. Quietly, they also say the church, which has suffered an estimated $3 billion hit in settlements and other costs related to clergy sex abuse scandals nationwide, can ill afford further financial exposure.
Too bad that never occurred to them when they were busy shuffling pedophiles around the world so they could have fresh meat again and again. Had they realized the potential financial disaster that awaited them for this evil, they might have done something to stop it. Certainly, there was, and it appears, still is, no incentive to stop the abuse for the well-being of the children of even the fear of God.
I would not be overwhelmed with grief if the Catholic church collapsed completely!
In his trip to the United States, Pope Francis praised bishops for what he called their "generous commitment to bring healing to victims" and he expressed sympathy for "how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you." Yet by its actions, the church's "commitment to bring healing" has seemed far from generous. And it seemed perverse to address the bishops' "pain" when the real suffering has been borne by children.