‘RECYCLED rhetoric’ was the actual phrase used at the conclusion of the summit this week by Anne Barrett Doyle, co-founder of Bishop Accountability, which tracks clergy sex abuse cases, but we all know that that means.
Doyle, above, told the Guardian:
I am utterly stunned. The Pope has undone the tiny bit of progress that possibly was achieved this week. He was defensive, rationalising that abuse happens in all sectors of society. Ironically and sadly, he exhibited no responsibility, no accountability and no transparency.
She is one of many activists for survivors of clerical sexual abuse who reportedly reacted with fury after Pope Francis failed to promise a “zero tolerance” approach to paedophile priests and the bishops who cover up their crimes as he closed a landmark summit at the Vatican.
Although he vowed that the Roman Catholic church would “spare no effort” to bring abusers to justice and would not cover up or underestimate abuse, a significant part of the his closing speech emphasised that Catholic priests were far from being the sole abusers of children.
Citing data, he said that the majority of cases arose within families and that the perpetrators of abuse were:
Primarily parents, relatives, husbands of child brides and teachers.
He also said that online pornography and sex tourism exacerbated the problem.
Our work has made us realise once again that the gravity of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors is, and historically has been, a widespread phenomenon in all cultures and societies. I am reminded of the cruel religious practice, once widespread in certain cultures, of sacrificing human beings – frequently children – in pagan rites.
Oh, and let’s not forget Satan. On the eve of the summit, the Pope said:
One cannot live an entire life accusing, accusing, accusing the Church. Whose is the office of the accuser? The devil! And those who spend their life accusing, accusing, accusing, are – I will not say children, because the devil does not have any – but friends, cousins, relatives of the devil.
And who are these” friends, cousins and relatives?” According to the egregious Catholic League’s Bill Dononhue, above:
Virtually every professional victims’ group – most are not a true organization – as well as by pundits and activists.
While the Pope acknowledged that the occurrence of the sexual abuse of children within the Catholic church was even more “scandalous” due to its incompatibility “with her moral authority and ethical credibility”, his speech failed to reflect the concrete action that survivors of sex abuse were hoping for.
About 190 bishops and cardinals attended the summit, during which they heard traumatic testimony from those who had been raped and molested by priests, and about the indifference that the Catholic church’s hierarchy has shown towards them.
One woman from Africa told the summit that the priest who began raping her at age 15 forced her to have three abortions, and beat her when she refused him sex. A survivor from Chile told the bishops and religious superiors they had inflicted even more pain on victims by discrediting them and protecting the priests who abused.
The presidents of the bishops’ conferences going home today will rest easy. They will scrutinise the [Pope’s] talk and try to analyse the question: ‘Do I have to do anything differently or risk losing my job?’ The answer is no, there’s nothing in this talk today that threatens the position and power of bishops. It is so far from what was needed.
Dozens of survivors of clerical sexual abuse who travelled to Rome on the expectation of a stronger outcome felt severely let down. Said Alessandro Battaglia, 22:
I’ve been waiting for seven years … others have been waiting for much longer. After four days, we get a piece of paper full of banality, and this is the church in which we’re expected to believe. We are very disappointed.
Francesco Zanardi, who set up Rete l’Abuso, Italy’s only network of clerical abuse survivors, said:
We’re being taken for a ride. We expected a concrete response but nothing useful has come out of this. In this speech the church makes itself out to be the victim – but we are the victims.
Peter Isley, above, spokesperson for Ending Clergy Abuse, an organisation that brings together activists from different countries, criticised the Pope’s speech for failing to signal that church leaders would get tough on removing from the ministry priests guilty of abuse and bishops who covered up for them.
A child will be harmed today due to what the Pope didn’t say today. What he’s actually saying to all bishops is to ‘keep on covering it up’. He talks about families … well he is protecting his family. Why can’t he enact zero-tolerance into church law? He has the power to do that. The problem is his internal conflict – does he protect the priests within his family or the victims of abuse?