Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014 12:36 am est

Going Global: No tangible progress in combating Catholic sexual abuse

Posted on March 7, 2014 | by Nina Golshan

It has been almost one full year since Pope Francis was elected to take Pope Benedict XVI’s place in the Vatican. He has been hailed by both the Catholic community and its critics for his openness to bringing much needed reform to the outdated ethos of the church. His forthcoming attitude has alleviated some concerns about how the Vatican can reconcile its beliefs with those of its more youthful and liberal followers. However, for all of his efforts to reconnect, Francis has failed to truly address the patterns of sexual abuse and exploitation by clerics supported by the Vatican.

In a recent interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Francis made comments defending the church’s response to reports of sexual abuse, claiming that it is “the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No other has done more. And, the church is the only one to be attacked.” It is true that the church has been under scrutiny for quite some time — last month, a UN committee issued a report criticizing the Church’s policies on a range of issues, calling for the removal of any known sexual abusers and release of records of sexual assault allegations against clerics.

It is also true that he has publicly acknowledged the problem, and in December he created a committee to evaluate methods to protect sexually abused children and more effectively screen men seeking to become priests for sexual deviance. This committee, however, is strictly advisory, and there is almost no information available regarding how it has gone about measuring the breadth of the problem. The “transparency” Francis speaks of does not exist.

There has been almost no mention of increasing bishop accountability. The church continues to actively appoint clerics who have either committed sexual abuse themselves or have protected others from criminal investigation. In January, for example, the Vatican made the decision not to extradite Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski to Poland despite accusations of sexual abuse against him both in Poland and in the Dominican Republic. The Vatican claimed that Wesolowski is covered by “diplomatic immunity.”

In another case a bit closer to home, Bishop Robert Finn continues to serve at the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph despite urgent pleas for disciplinary action from Catholics in his community. Finn was charged with failing to report a priest’s involvement with child pornography in 2012 and was placed on court-ordered probation for two years. Despite a formal request initiated by other parishioners in his area and a petition signed by 113,000 people calling for his removal, the Vatican has not responded.

The steps the pope has taken to combat this problem are nominal and the lack of transparency points toward the absence of any real force for change. While words of support have brought Francis into high esteem, they can only do so much for the victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic community.

It may be too much to expect a radical change in the church’s platform on abortion, divorce or contraception, but high expectations for immediate action to stop sexual abuse in Catholic institutions are more than warranted. It takes time to combat a systemic problem like sexual abuse, but Francis can start by simply holding priests accountable for their actions and ending the code of silence that has characterized the church’s image for so long.

Nina Golshan is a deputy opinion editor. Looking Left is published every Friday. Email her at ngolshan@nyunews.com.


  • SNAPJudy

    Now we know where Pope Francis stands on the issue of the sex abuse of
    children within the Catholic institution, and it hurts.

    He states: “The Catholic
    Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency
    and responsibility. No other has done more. And, the Church is the only one to
    be attacked”——-

    His defensive words are very hurtful to so many thousands of victims who
    were hoping that, just maybe, Pope Francis might be different. That maybe he
    really does care about protecting innocent children.

    Sadly the pope is badly misinformed about the church officials being
    responsible and transparent. Or he is just following the same old archaic
    rhetoric that the previous popes have done. Child sex abuse and cover up by the
    clergy under his power does not seem to be a big deal to him. Francis words
    could make a person cry, if we had any hope at all that he might take some
    decisive actions to get this horrific abuse and cover up stopped.

    Tragically the sex abuse and cover up within the church hierarchy
    throughout the world is still going on to this day. Cardinals and bishops are
    still not removing accused predator clergy, and they are still not reporting to
    law enforcement. Their so called “zero tolerance” policy is not being followed
    by the bishops who created it. They don’t have to, because there is no
    punishment to force the bishops to change their ways of protecting their image
    and the institution rather than protecting children.

    Child predators need to be kept far away from kids forever. So silence is
    not an option anymore, it only hurts and by speaking up there is a chance for
    healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.
    Jones, “SNAP” the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests,

  • Michael O’ Keeffe

    The present pope is No different from the rest. In Ireland a leading member ie The Cardinal helped/Made children and parent sign Silences contract to shut them up and then do nothing about the abusers.

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