The Pope has made some controversial decisions while leading the Catholic church (Picture: Pierpaolo Scavuzzo/AGF/REX/Shutterstock)
Pope Francis has reduced punishments for paedophile priests who abused children as young as 12.
The leader of the world’s biggest faith wants to apply his vision of a ‘merciful’ church and has changed the punishments for a handful of priests.
Italian priest Mauro Inzoli had been sentenced to be ‘defrocked’ (removed from the priesthood) in 2012, but Pope Francis reversed the decision in 2014, telling him instead to stop public ministry and do penance and pray for the rest of his life.
The Inzoli case is said to be one of several similar cases when harsher sentences had been recommended by the Pope’s own advisory council on this issue, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Inzoli was later convicted by an Italian court for sex abuse crimes against five children. He now faces a second church trial.
Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI who resigned to join a monastery, rarely showed mercy in cases such as this and defrocked 800 priests.
Inzoli was shown clemency and in a statement Bishop Cantoni said: ‘No misery is so profound, no sin so terrible that mercy cannot be applied.’
Abuse victims have said they are not satisfied with this. An Irish abuse survivor, Marie Collins, founding member of Francis’ sex-abuse advisory commission spoke out.
In an email she wrote: ‘All who abuse have made a conscious decision to do so. Even those who are paedophiles, experts will tell you, are still responsible for their actions. They can resist their inclinations.’
Pope Francis with the head of a sex abuse advisory commission, Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley (Picture: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)
A church insider said of the South American pontiff: ‘With all this emphasis on mercy … he is creating the environment for such initiatives.’
Francis has repeatedly tried to push for a ‘merciful’ church and one that forgives divorced couples, among others. Officials have said that even ‘heinous crimes’ should be forgiven.
Greg Burke, a Vatican spokesman, said: ‘The Holy Father understands that many victims and survivors can find any sign of mercy in this area difficult. But he knows that the Gospel message of mercy is ultimately a source of powerful healing and of grace.’
Yet abuse survivor Collins said: ‘While mercy is important, justice for all parties is equally important.
‘If there is seen to be any weakness about proper penalties, then it might well send the wrong message to those who would abuse.’
Pope Francis reduces penalties for paedophile priests to a lifetime of prayer
The Pope faces widespread condemnation for his ‘merciful’ approach to child sex offenders.
International Business Times
February 25, 2017 23:48 GMT
By Priya Joshi
Pope Francis has overruled advice given to him by congregation officials opting for lesser penalties for paedophiles within the church REUTERS/Alberto Pizzoli/Pool
Pope Francis’s decision to reduce penalties for paedophile priests has been met with widespread condemnation from church officials and sex abuse survivors.
Applying his vision of a ‘merciful church’ the Pope previously sanctioned weaker canonical sentences for two sex offenders within the church, which were commuted to a lifetime of prayer and penance after they appealed for clemency.
Reverend Mauro Inzoli was found guilty by the Vatican of abusing boys as young as 12, in 2012 and was ordered to be defrocked.
However, following an appeal, in 2014 Francis reduced the penalty to a lifetime of prayer and to continue service in a restricted ministry.
Inzoli is prohibited from celebrating Mass in public or being near children, and is barred from his diocese. He has also been ordered to undergo five years of psychotherapy.
Pope Francis overruled the advice given to him by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which recommended sterner penalties befitting the heinous crimes against children, but Inzoli was controversially, welcomed back to the priesthood.
However, after new evidence emerged he was been convicted by an Italian criminal court for sex crimes against five children, and now faces a second church trial.
The decision by Pope Francis to reinstate Inzoli was met with a public outcry in the northern Italian town of Cremona, where the abuse took place.
Marie Collins, an abuse survivor and founding member of Francis’ sex-abuse advisory commission, said the Pope’s rulings for lenient sentences sends out the wrong message to abusers and survivors of abuse.
“All who abuse have made a conscious decision to do so. Even those who are paedophiles, experts will tell you, are still responsible for their actions. They can resist their inclinations,” she explained.
“While mercy is important, justice for all parties is equally important,” she added. “If there is seen to be any weakness about proper penalties, then it might well send the wrong message to those who would abuse.”
Church authorities have argued that defrocking paedophile priests will prevent the church exerting control over them, claiming that to do so would place them in the wider society where they may re-offend.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the restrictions are intended to ensure the priest’s conduct within the church is supervised and their access to children is prevented.
He defended the Pope’s emphasis on mercy claiming that it applied to “even those who are guilty of heinous crimes and priests who are found to be abusers are permanently removed from the ministry but are not necessarily defrocked.”
“The Holy Father understands that many victims and survivors can find any sign of mercy in this area difficult, but he knows that the Gospel message of mercy is ultimately a source of powerful healing and of grace,” he said.
In contrast, during his eight-year papacy his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, defrocked 800 priests, who had raped and molested children and rarely granted clemency petitions, Mail Online reports.
Better to be an atheist than a hypocritical Catholic: Pope Francis
23 February 2017
Pope Francis criticizing some members of his own Church Thursday, suggesting that it’s better to be an atheist than one of “many” Catholics who he says lead a double life.
The comments delivered in a sermon broadcast on Vatican Radio, in which the pope said that hypocritical Catholics should admit “‘my life is not Christian, I don’t pay my employees proper salaries, I exploit people, I do dirty business, I launder money, (I lead) a double life’.”
“There are many Catholics who are like this and they cause scandal. How many times have we all heard people say ‘if that person is a Catholic, it is better to be an atheist’.”
Since his election in 2013, the pope has often told Catholics, both priests and lay people, to practice what their religion preaches.
It’s also not the first time he’s expressed compassion for atheists. Less than two months after his election, Pope Francis said all human beings, even atheists, can be redeemed, and that Christians should see atheists as good people if they do good.