Pope Francis Stalls Reforms for Addressing Sex Abuse Scandal

I am a practicing Catholic. I use that term to distinguish myself from the politicians that are Catholic-In-Name-Only (CINO) such as Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), former Vice-President Joe Biden (D), Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Claire McGaskill (D-MO), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and, with the exception of Sen. Joe Mancin (D-WV), every other would be Catholic Democrat senator in the United States Senate. Like Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s embrace of being a fake-Native American has benefited her academic and political career, being a fake Catholic has benefited each of these CINO’s political careers.

I am also, as a graduate of Gonzaga University, Jesuit educated. The reason for this introduction will become self-evident.

In Tuesday morning’s edition of The Wall Street Journal the headline above the fold (a place usually reserved for the most important articles) read “VATICAN BARS U.S. BISHOPS’ACTION ON SEX ABUSE.” Many, but not all, American bishops have taken a new hard stance in rooting out members of the clergy who have either abused children or covered up the abuse of children by other members of the clergy. Bishop Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix, where we live, noted in a pastoral letter:

“Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

“We write you this day to express our own deep level of sadness and anger about the recent revelations surrounding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and the newly released Pennsylvania Grand Jury report. These shameful and evil actions have harmed many innocent people, especially the young; and they are utterly inexcusable. This has also caused great pain, confusion and dismay among us all — laity, religious and clergy — who remain committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are sorry that you have had to endure this anguish.

“We support the recent announcement by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, of a new plan that will involve laity, experts, and the Vatican to provide the strongest protection possible against predators in the Church and anyone who would conceal them. We welcome these efforts and renew our own commitments to do all we can to protect young people and others who are vulnerable, and to bring healing to those who have been abused.

“The three goals of this new effort are as follows: an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints. These goals will be pursued according to three criteria: proper independence, sufficient authority, and substantial leadership by laity. Our office of Child and Youth Protection continues to provide assistance to victims and ongoing safe environment training to our schools and parishes in the Diocese of Phoenix.

* * *

“Anyone who has been a victim of abuse is encouraged to call a local law enforcement agency.”

Archbishop Alexander Sample of the Diocese of Portland where we used to live and now vacation, noted in an article by The Oregonian/OregonLive:

“In his first public comments since a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed decades of abuse at the hands of 300 Roman Catholic priests in that state, Archbishop Alexander K. Sample apologized for harm done to the victims of abuse and called the latest allegations evidence of an “institutional and spiritual” failure.

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“’These horrific revelations are particularly painful in light of what victims in our own Archdiocese have suffered and the impact that sexual abuse has had on the Church here in western Oregon,’ Sample said in Monday’s statement. ’These most-recent accusations and details expose — yet again — certain systematic and profound failures of episcopal leadership in our Church. These failures are both institutional and spiritual in nature, and date back many decades.’

“Sample outlined steps he said the church should take to avoid abuse and subsequent cover-ups, including the creation of an outside investigation process and expanding investigations to include those who knew about abuse and failed to report it. He said he would advocate for reform when U.S. bishops gather in November for an annual meeting.

“He urged victims of previous abuse to bring their complaint to the church or local law enforcement, and he asked members of the church to pray for and assist the victims of abuse.”

Archbishop Sample’s comments stand in stark contrast to some of the local priests’ comments to their parishioners. In September, shortly before returning to Phoenix, a priest in Lake Oswego, addressing the continuing scandal, noted that there were “evil forces intent on destroying the Church.” In failing to identify those evil forces as internal to the church’s priest, monsignors, bishops, archbishops, cardinals and even the Pope, he left parishioners to speculate about whether this child abuse scandal was just an anti-Catholic publicity attack or a real scandal. Trust me, it is a real scandal.

And now Pope Francis has driven a stake through the heart of those who are attempting to rectify past abuses and prevent future abuses. He barred American bishops from implementing remedial actions. Pope Francis has acknowledged his past failures while an archbishop in Argentina in dealing with complaints of sex abuse by members of the clergy – re-assigning them rather than removing them. He restored Theodore Cardinal McCarrick and elevated him as a principle adviser even though his predecessor, Pope Benedict, had censored the Cardinal and limited his public ministry. Pope Francis knew of Cardinal McCarrick’s serial abuse of seminarians and demanded his resignation only after Maria Cardinal Vigano, former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, published a letter detailing warnings to the Vatican of Cardinal McCarrick’s transgression.

And what is Pope Francis’ rationale? He has said that he wants everyone in the Church’s hierarchy to “be on the same page” after a gathering of those members of the hierarchy to be held later in 2019. It is a monotonous excuse used by politicians of every stripe to delay and defer action. It is as if a decision can only be made once or that a course of action cannot be altered in the future. It is nonsense. In point of fact, any “decision” coming out of this future gathering must, by necessity, include elements mentioned by Bishop Olmsted and Archbishop Sample but should go further by:

  • Creating of a committee composed of practicing lay Catholics not beholden to the Church to administer reforms
  •  Identification of past and present accusations of sexual abuse by living members of the ministry including disposition of the accusations.
  •  Removal of members of the clergy found to have engaged in child abuse.
  •  Referral for criminal prosecution of such accusations.
  •  Psychological profiles of current clergy and those seeking to enter the clergy to determine a proclivity for child abuse.
  • Creation of a fund backed by the assets of the Church to compensate victims of the abuse by members of the clergy.

The Church’s first responsibility is to protect the members of the Church. A Shepherd cannot protect his flock by allowing the predators to roam freely in its midst.

I recognize that the Pope is deemed to be infallible, but only in matters of faith and morals. Child abuse is a crime and does not fall within the categories of faith and morals. Pope Francis actions to date remain outside of those strictures and members of the Church are free to criticize and reject the Pope’s lack of action on child abuse within the Church

Pope Francis is the first Jesuit priest to become Pope. There is a reason that two thousand years have passed without a Jesuit pope. Perhaps another two thousand years need to pass before giving such power to future Jesuits.