Pope hits out at criticism of Church over sexual abuse

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BBC News Europe

05 March 2014

Pope Francis leads his Sunday Angelus prayer in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican March 2, 2014 Pope Francis said the “great majority” of abuses were carried out in family or neighbourhood environments

Pope Francis has strongly defended the Roman Catholic Church’s record on tackling sexual abuse by priests.

In a rare interview with an Italian newspaper, the Pope said “no-one else has done more” to root out paedophilia.

He said the Church had acted with transparency and responsibility, yet it was the only institution to have been attacked.

Last month, the UN strongly criticised the Vatican for failing to stamp out child abuse and for allowing cover-ups.

‘Shocking’ statistics

In his interview with Corriere della Sera published on Wednesday, Pope Francis said: “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility.

“No-one else has done more. Yet the Church is the only one to have been attacked.”

The Pope, who will celebrate his first anniversary of his election later this month, also praised his predecessor, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, for changing the Church’s attitude towards predatory priests, saying he had been “very courageous”.

He also questioned the focus of the debate, saying: “The statistics on the phenomenon of violence against children are shocking, but they also clearly show that the great majority of abuses are carried out in family or neighbourhood environments.”

A UN report into the abuse scandals published last month called on the Pope to “immediately remove” all clergy who were known or suspected child abusers.

It also accused the Vatican of systematically placing the “preservation of the reputation of the Church and the alleged offender over the protection of child victims” – something it has strenuously denied.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) said the Holy See should open its files on members of the clergy who had “concealed their crimes” so that they could be held accountable by the authorities.

Pope Francis has set up a commission to investigate sex crimes committed by priests and to care for victims, but so far he has made very few public comments about the scandals that have rocked the Church in recent years.

No ‘big changes’

The front cover of a new magazine in Italy called Il Mio Papa - or My Pope

A new weekly magazine devoted entirely to the life of Pope Francis has been launched in Italy

The leader of an Italian group representing victims of clerical sex abuse claimed there had been little action from the Vatican and said there had been no “big changes” under Pope Francis.

Francesco Zanardi of Rete L’Abuso, told the BBC: “The cases of child abuse by priests continue to happen, all around Italy, and of the cases that we’ve denounced we have seen no results.”

“The Pope may make this statement, but then the Vatican doesn’t reply to the UN or impose the obligation that bishops should denounce accused priests in the courts and not deal with the cases internally.

The founder of the US-based website, BishopAccountability.org, Terence McKiernan, was more direct in his criticism, complaining that the Pope had not merely failed to apologise to the children who had been abused but had not even expressed sorrow.

“It is astonishing, at this late date, that Pope Francis would recycle such tired and defensive rhetoric,” he said.

Pope Francis also used the interview with Corriere della Sera to admit that he was uncomfortable with the depiction of him as a “superman” who leaves the Vatican at night to feed the homeless.

He told the newspaper: “The Pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps calmly and has friends like everyone else. A normal person.”

His comments came as a new weekly magazine devoted entirely to his life, called Il Mio Papa – or My Pope – hit the news-stands in Italy.


Catholic Church abuse scandals

  • Germany – A priest, named only as Andreas L, admitted in 2012 to 280 counts of sexual abuse involving three boys over a decade
  • United States – Revelations about abuses in the 1990s by two Boston priests, Paul Shanley and John Geoghan, caused public outrage
  • Belgium – The bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, resigned in April 2010 after admitting that he had sexually abused a boy for years
  • Italy – The Catholic Church in Italy admitted in 2010 that about 100 cases of paedophile priests had been reported over 10 years
  • Ireland – A report in 2009 found that sexual and psychological abuse was “endemic” in Catholic-run industrial schools and orphanages for most of the 20th century

22 Responses to Pope hits out at criticism of Church over sexual abuse

  1. Sylvia says:

    “No-one else has done more. ….”

    Kicking and screaming all the way. Only when cover-ups are publicly exposed do we see a modicum of change for the better.

    I am not impressed. Not in the slightest. We’ve heard all that Pope had to say before – time and time and time again – for the past twenty years.

    I read not a word of apology to the victims. Nor do I see a shred of compassion for the victims. Nor a word about the on-going cover-ups. And not a word about the countless clerical molesters who continue to sully the priesthood by their presence.

  2. B says:

    Yesterday, I watched “Sex Crimes and the Vatican.” No, the Catholic Church has not “acted with transparency and responsibility” against clerical pedophiles. Until it does so, it needs to be repeatedly attacked for failing to protect the most vulnerable members of the Church, the little children.

    We tell our children, when they’ve made mistakes, that it’s no excuse to say, “But Joey did it too” (or did something worse), because they need to take responsibility for their own actions. Yet Pope Francis’s statements are another such childish attempt to deflect necessary criticism, thus avoiding reflection or change. This is not leadership.

    • Lina says:

      “Pope Francis has strongly defended the Roman Catholic Church’s record on tackling sexual abuse by priests.”

      What Pope Francis is saying makes as much sense as a screen door on a submarine.

      Pope Francis is conducting himself just like the others before him that down play the seriousness of these crimes. Either way refusing to address the issue of the cover ups in-depth is so convenient for them and the whole Catholic Church, n’est-ce pas?

      I don’t believe this clergy abuse problem can be resolved from the inside because they are too full of themselves and believe they are this special elite group that is above the law. The law need to keep on putting pressure. Every time a victim comes forward a dent is made in that vicious circle of covering up those crimes.

      The Catholic Church glorifies pain and sufferings. Catholic folks see it has a good thing to take part in the sufferings of Jesus and let’s not forget the examples of the martyrs. The Pope must see the victims of clergy abuse in the same way. He like to see the survivors of abuse to take it like all those saints.
      What a bunch of sick twisted clergy and that goes for MANY who support these clergy from the pews.

  3. There is no honesty left at [SMIS] says:

    There is no inquiry into the ever growing numbers of Canadian Brothers of Christian Instruction in Japan and their molestation of boys for over 50 years at St Mary’s International School Tokyo, often referred to as Japan’s leading boy’s school.

    The Brothers in Japan do not even succumb to the childish comments of Pope Francis in the way that he deflects criticism. In the words of one commentator they treat allegations no differently to announcing a Brother had a cold. Sylvia has pointed out it is likely that one Brother still lives in the grounds of a school among boys.

    It no plays out on this and other web sites that the Brothers of Christian Instruction in Japan have acted out a karmasutra of pedophilia in the past. and there is no indication that they have stopped playing their heinous game. But while the current Pope remains silent, there is no one to change the rules of play. They could be still playing on with their batteries on full charge, with tacit or even direct support of Pope Francis. While Pope Francis remains silent, we can only presume he supports sexual abuse of children, there can be no other morally accountable reason.

  4. Miecul says:

    How long does it take the Vatican to defrock a priest after he’s been found guilty and jailed? That could be the opening line to a joke, if it was funny.

    These guys have been brought up playing dodge ball and are all pro’s at this game. If the Pope hasn’t made significant changes by this time next year, then don’t hold your breath, it’s not going to happen. If one really thinks about the big picture What would you do, and how would you do it. Let’s say that 1% of all priest and bishops that are pedophiles. As of 2010 there was 5104 bishops and 412,236 priests. That means there are 51.04 bishops and 4122.36 priests out there have a liking of a sick kind. Numbers don’t lie. Pope Benedict knew who they were, so did JP II, and our new pope knows who they are or at the very least the majority of them. What to do with so many bad apples in the basket. I wonder why so many of our young aren’t attending mass. If you don’t heal this infection, you will lose the body in one more generation.

    Accountability, transparency, responsibility, these are only words in the wind, Your Holiness.

  5. Michel Bertrand says:

    The emporer’$ new clothes is again sullied by the truth. Truth is they continue to approach the sexual abuse of children by priests and persons of trust by minimizing, denying, paying for silence and covering for one another. Victims or survivors are perceived as enemies of the church. I do not see love and compassion in the administration of their church however, greed, hypocrisy and self serving administrative policy surrounding these crimes. It will be a while with this cassock hope they start to get it and change, protect children first, detain and actively persue defrocking the priest who are found guilty

  6. Leona says:

    I read this quote from the Ruth Krall’s online book “Elephants in God’s Living Room”, in a blogpost yesterday.

    “They [anti-abuse advocates] had looked straight on at these complex issues of affinity violence and systemic corruption – both often done in God’s name – and, in essence, said, I do not agree. This spiritual atrocity of abuse will not be done in my name. This religious atrocity of institutional betrayal will not be done in my name. I refuse to be silent. I refuse to be complicit. I will speak up and I will act. I cast, therefore, my personal destiny with those who are abused. I will seek to be today’s Good Samaritan – helping those whom my institutional or denominational church has violated and then abandoned.”

    I thought it was quite powerful and speaks to me as to why I feel compelled to continue to speak out on this issue. Pope Francis’ words momentarily bring me back to my mother saying “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” He chastises those of us who continue to speak out. I for one will not be silenced.

  7. JG says:

    I am starting to think that the selection of Francis was approached just like any other “political” contest…
    I am sure that Rome is following very closely the complaints and demands of the faithful on a range of issues. They ignore most of them as long as is possible until they go away, are out of focus or until something comes up to generate some “distraction”…like the election of a new Pope, a world youth gathering, the naming of a few convenient “saints”…It is all in the timing! For the faithful, this will only reinforce their belief that everything is as it should be…it makes them “feel” better, so things must be better. Anyone who doesn’t see it as they do are just out to cause trouble, to get some money for themselves: they are just not “worthy”of our cause!
    So, you have to select a Pope that will “appease” most of the discontent, someone likeable, someone like “them”(the rabble!)…Lets find someone who exudes simple christian “values” because that is what the “general” rhetoric is looking for. Lets give them what they want and all our “problems” will be solved.
    In the smaller political world the parties will select a likeable, local boy who can “relate” to the electorate. In the country it might be a farmer, a lawyer in the city or a real estate person…You get the idea!
    In the end it is simply putting all the chances on your side, after rigorous analysis of all variables, to WIN.
    Telling everyone that this “representative” will make things better is just a smart way to stay in POWER.
    We believe our politicians and we believe the “religious” leaders.
    In the end they “always” look after their own best interest.
    The only way to get away from this systematic deception is to remain vocal. We all loose only wen we are “silent” about what really matters in any situation in life and what we are really expecting in all circumstances, to make “things” better, is simple HONESTY!
    It is as easy as that, even for a Pope! Humility is just a ruse without that absolute honesty; Honesty would be the “only” infallible contribution of any Pope.
    It shouldn’t require a year or, much less, two years of reflection!!
    Francis is only required to be “Frank” …

  8. Leona says:

    For sure, JG, and with the PR guru Gregory Burke heading the media spin, they’re managing well.

  9. JG says:

    Well, Leona, their media spin is not fooling everyone and this “game” the church is playing seems to be on rewind, again, with these recycled excuses by Francis.
    Not just disappointing, downright insulting! :”We are not the only ones, they did it too!”
    Petty criminal’s ignorance and deception coming from …?? I don’t know “what” that is anymore…except “unbelievable”!!

  10. B says:

    To object that the Catholic Church was the “only institution to be attacked” is an attempt to claim victim status.

    In fact, the popes, cardinals, bishops, etc, were also victimizers, re-abusing children by denying their attempts to tell the truth, ensuring further abuse by deliberately moving known abusers to positions of trust, creating laws and spending huge amounts to protect child molesters from punishment, lying directly or stonewalling. These were all evil acts, which must be acknowledged before any healing can begin.

  11. Henry says:

    A Lenten Reflection
    will the risen one ever fully rise
    The journey from ashes to palms to passion begins anew,
    Days of pain, suffering, trials, sorrow, and agony,
    Innocent violated victim, duplicitous denier, mother at the victim’s side suffering in silent anguish,
    Suffering from the agony, from the deep betrayal, from the exhausting trauma and worry…
    Lived still today as holy week begins in courtrooms, police stations, and parishes,
    Innocent violated victim, duplicitous denier, mother at the victim’s side suffering in silent angst,
    Who does the diocese side with today…the innocent one, the denier, those in pharisaical garb,
    Will the innocent one be betrayed again by those in clerical robe , by those who hide behind the
    manufactured legalisms, fearful of the truth…
    In the day of the new Francis , with the new call for truth and justice for the violated ones…
    Where does the diocese decide to sit, with the perfidious violator ??
    Or with the innocence of the victim and the white of the new presider of the petrine chair…
    or is the new francis a pale reflection of the man of assisi so many years ago…
    The question of ancient times is uttered again…what is truth,
    Will the church wash its hands again when faced with this question?
    Will the innocent be traumatized and victimized again to side with the denier as other victims watch,
    Will this good friday actually allow for the risen one to appear in the imago dei of the innocent victim??
    Innocent violated victim, duplicitous denier, mother at the victim’s side suffering in silent anguish..

  12. CMC says:

    Tom Doyle is a priest, canon lawyer, addictions therapist and longtime supporter of justice and compassion for clergy sex abuse victims has written a brilliant article in response to Francis’s comments / actions/ lack thereof. It can be found by going to ‘Pope Francis on abuse .. a disappointment.’
    Truly, worth a read!

      • Eve says:

        The pope doesn’t care I’m sure he tells his brothers don’t worry watch this Good Friday everyone will be clamouring to kiss my hand, no matter what we do or say they are blind sheep who will follow, even tho the UN has taken us to task it matters not look they even published a magazine about me can you believe it don’t worry brothers we are safe, wait and see the fools will come and treat me like the god I think I am.

        “No one else has done more”

        This statement tells us without a doubt what the Pope is all about.
        The arrogance is nauseating to say the least.

  13. gary says:

    Looks like their dropping the sheep’s clothing!!

  14. Bob Loblah says:

    09Mar14…..The devil will have his day.
    Fear not, for Jesus said so.

  15. A-Z says:

    The Pope admitted this past week to trying to steal a rosary out of the casket of his deceased “mentor”. The hand of the corpse was not pliable as rigor mortis had already set in, so “Papa” wrenched the fingers apart and broke off the Cross from the rest of the rosary, as a personal memento. He has kept it in a pocket or a little bag hanging around his wrinkled neck ever since. No remorse for being a thief. No compunction either about being in mortal sin, theologically speaking. The man is a heretic and as such is a ‘pretender’ to the Chair of Peter. He holds office illicitly. Pretty simple, except for those in denial.

    • Sylvia says:

      I had no idea what you were talking about !-Z. I just googled, and here it is – at least one account.

      The theft is as unbelievable as the public recounting of the theft.

      • Lina says:

        I gather Pope Francis wanted a relic from this man his “mentor” who must had made a strong impression on his spiritual life.

        Long ago they use to take body parts from people they thought who were holy saintly people who were so in tune and close to God.

        This is an odd confession then again we should be glad it’s not a finger of his “mentor” he took.

  16. Leona says:

    Fascinating A-Z. Like Sylvia, I just googled the article too. I noted that the Pope in speaking about his confessor said. “‘This man forgave the sins of all the priests of Buenos Aires, but not a single flower …?”
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought God forgave sins, not priests!

  17. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    This theft is bizarre, to say the least. We used to call this idolatry. Mike.

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