In a meeting on July 7, 2014 at the Vatican, Pope Francis apologized to six victims of sexual molestation by priests. Pope Francis issued a directive to Catholic Bishops around the world to tell them that they will be held accountable for deviant behavior by any of the priests in their dioceses.
The Pope held a private session with the six victims and personally apologized for the failure of the church hierarchy to protect the children that were accosted. The victims were a man and a woman each from Ireland, England and Germany. The Pope made a statement asking for forgiveness.
Before God and his people, I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. I humbly ask forgiveness. I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves.
There have been years of complaints that the Bishops refused to punish the errant priests. The priests were reassigned to new parishes, and often were still in direct contact with young men that they later abused. Bishops covered up the incidents, and did not cooperate with the local police and legal system to bring the priests to justice.
The Pope made it very clear that he intends to hold all levels of the Catholic Church accountable. He has been criticized for not addressing this issue in the first months of his papal reign.
All bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable.
There is an advocacy group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) that felt that the Pope’s words carry no weight without definitive actions against those known to abuse children. The summary of the SNAP position is succinctly stated with regard to the Pope’s apologies and statements regarding accountability. Mary Caplan is a member of SNAP.
These meetings are public relations coups for the Vatican and distracting placebos for others. They provide temporary but false hope. No child on earth is safer today because of this meeting.
There are some indications that the Pope will follow through on these promises to hold members of the clergy accountable. A Vatican tribunal defrocked the Archbishop of Poland, Jozef Wesolowski, after finding him guilty of sexual abuse of minors. SNAP members discount this action and are pressing to have Wesolowski returned to the Dominican Republic to face charges there for alleged sexual molestation of youth while Wesolowski was a priest in the Catholic Church.
Pope Francis has shown a willingness to get more involved in cleaning up some of the major issues in the church, which includes financial mismanagement, misconduct by priests and higher hierarchy members, and extravagant use of church money by church leaders. He has also refused to condemn homosexuality as a reason to force people from the Church.
You can find additional coverage of the Pope’s statements in a New York Times article written by Jim Yardley and published on July 7, 2014. The article is titled Pope Asks for Forgiveness from Victims of Sexual Abuse.
SNAP provided their own coverage of the Pope’s meeting. Their article, also published on July 7, 2014 is titled SEX-ABUSE VICTIMS TO POPE; STOP BEGGING FOR FORGIVENESS AND JUST STOP THE ABUSE. You can read their full article. SNAP is insisting that the Pope’s words are backed up with actions against those charged with abuse. SNAP provided 15 suggestions that the Pope can follow to take actions to satisfy those that have been abused.
When it comes to priests being allowed to marry and women being ordained as priests, the Pope is still mired in centuries of Church dogma. The roots of priestly sexual misconduct lies in trying to have human beings ignore a basic instinct and attraction to fulfil sexual desires. Denying these natural instincts has many priests fulfilling their needs with children, married parishioners that are both men and women.
This apology by the Pope and statements of accountability are steps in the right direction. Time will tell if these pronouncements are turned into concrete action to remove priests that molest children and hold them legally accountable. The solutions that makes the most natural sense, which are to let priests marry and nuns become priests, is not imminent by any stretch of the imagination.