Pope Francis missed an opportunity to not repeat his predecessors’ failures on the crimes of clerical sexual abuse of minors.
Last month the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child sharply denounced the Vatican’s failure since 2001 to report data to the United Nations on sexual abuse by priests.
“The Holy See has consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the Church and the protection of the perpetrators above children’s best interests…”
“The Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators.”
In response to this harsh critique, the Holy See thought it prudent to correct the UN’s “lack of understanding,” justify its policies, claim the Vatican is “a reality different” than other countries, and complain of moral intervention into “doctrinal positions of the Catholic Church.” This response only served to underscore the Committee’s findings on the Holy See’s conduct- the Vatican places its reputation over concerns for survivors of sexual abuse by priests.
Today Pope Francis again dodged, weaved and wobbled on criticisms of the Vatican’s handling of child sexual abuse and went so far as to defend the Church’s record. In an interview with Corriere della Sera, the Holy Father spoke in defense of the Vatican’s actions in dealing with child sexual abuse, saying “no one has done more” to address the issue. “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility… Yet the Church is the only one to have been attacked.”
La Chiesa cattolica è forse l’unica istituzione pubblica ad essersi mossa con trasparenza e responsabilità. Nessun altro ha fatto di più. Eppure la Chiesa è la sola ad essere attaccata
The Pope is simply practicing revisionist history. Penn State faced its own Marcial Maciel Degollado or Father Donald McGuire S.J. In Gerry Sandusky, Penn State as an institution faced serious consequences for their conduct. To date, the Holy See has not fired anyone, refuses extradition of a Papal Nuncio wanted for child sexual abuse in the Dominican Republic and is on the verge of canonizing John Paul II who allowed Maciel to go unpunished during his reign.
If the Holy See is going to claim moral authority it will be held to a higher standard, if not by the objective measures of the UN Committee, then indeed by public opinion. In turn, if the Holy See fails miserably to address the documented crisis of clerical sexual abuse of minors, fails to follow the rule of law and continues to put children at risk, the Holy See has earned every bit of criticism. Some simply call that justice.