Pope Francis, the Vatican, and the leniency on sexual abuse

Pope Francis, the Vatican, and the leniency on sexual abuse March 19, 2015

Photo: Casa Rosada
Photo: Casa Rosada

Pope Francis; more of the same from the Catholic church.

I wish there were another way to state this but, as my last article on him demonstrated, as I would imagine the posts from Dan Arel would show, Francis is the same Pope as any before.

Though Francis has made several statements that appear to make him forward thinking, it remains clear that he is not all that progressive. Let alone espousing anything new. He either reiterates positions already held by the Church, or they make retractions to things he has said.

Today, we are looking at Pope Francis’ situation with sexual abuse within the Church. Not that there are allegations against him, but how he has handled them in the authoritative positions he has held.

Francis stated in 2011 that he had a “zero tolerance policy” on sexual abuse, which appears to be contrary to how he handled it as a cardinal. He is known for dismissing or ignoring victim’s claims when abuse from clergy was reported to him. While it is questionable whether his latest actions has had any effect, it appears minimal at best.

One such situation was with an 84-year-old priest; after being charged with the abuse allegations, he was sentenced to a life of “penitence and prayer”. I have been unsuccessful in finding what such a sentence entails; from my days as a Catholic, penitence, for me, was doing nice deeds, prayer, and hoping God did not send me to hell. Is this really the fair punishment for multiple counts of sexual abuse?

Francis also, after ignoring a victims’ allegations while a cardinal, elevated abuse claims to the Vatican, who had the accused defrocked. So, after a victim has been abused for however long (one time is too many, honestly), taking away the priests job seems like a just punishment?

Even prior to Francis, Pope Benedict, after calling all abuse allegations to be sent to the Vatican, did so in privacy and threatened excommunication for anyone guilty of the violations.

This is all brought into perspective by one case that was brought to civil court in 2011 where a clergyman, after abusing several boys for a decade, was sentenced to actual jail time. This, sadly, is rare. But it also shows a punishment (15 years in jail and 70,000 USD [50,000 Euro] per victim), whether fair or not, that seems more appropriate than simply asking the priest to lead a life of prayer and reflection, or losing their job.

Really, unless the quiet reflection, or grieving over loss of a career, is done in jail, none of what the church has handed out for retributive action seems justified.

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