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Pope Francis I needs to make major changes to stop sexual abuse by priests

Eugenio Scalfari published the results of an interview with Pope Francis I on Sunday, July 13, 2014. The interview focused on the continuing exploitation of children by priests in the Roman Catholic Church. In the interview, Scalfari quoted the Pope as saying that sex scandals within the Church are "leprosy in our home” and that the scandals involve bishops and cardinals as well.

Pope Francis I is taking church reforms seriously
Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Scalfari attributed the estimate of about 1 of every 50 priests being pedophiles to Pope Francis. The Pope has committed to confront all of those that have covered up prior sexual abuses and to continue to work on stopping the abuse. The official Vatican press did not refute the key points of Scalfari’s statements. They noted that Scalfari did not record or take notes during the interview, and that he was quoting the Pope’s words from memory. They denied that cardinals were involved in the sexual abuse.

The group of Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Priests (SNAP) has immediately responded to these recent statements by Pope Francis regarding stopping the abuse of children by priests. David Clohessey, executive director of SNAP, had this to say about the Pope’s latest statements.

I am convinced that no threat of penalty will deter a child molester. Defrocking a bishop or cardinal who hides abuse would have an enormous deterrent effect.

The Catholic Church has been called to testify on sexual abuse by the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Committee Against Torture. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi was the Vatican representative that spoke before the UN committees.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said that Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, a Polish archbishop and papal envoy, was defrocked after allegations of sexual abuse when Wesolowski was serving in the Dominican Republic. Wesolowski is the highest ranking member of the Catholic clergy to be defrocked due to sexual misconduct with children.

Tomasi said that there would be a criminal investigation of Wesolowski by Vatican prosecutors. Tomasi said that Wesolowski has diplomatic immunity from criminal prosecution by civil governments due to Wesolowski’s status as a Vatican envoy.

This insistence that the Vatican will handle Wesolowski’s case instead of allowing extradition of Wesolowski back to the Dominican Republic is a continuation of trying to keep the lid on sexual scandals within the church. SNAP and the international press will attempt to pressure the Vatican into allowing legal action to proceed in the courts where sexual offenses occurred.

An article by Phillip Pullella of Reuters was published in the Huffington Post on July 13, 2014. This article has more extensive coverage of the Pope's comments to Scarfari.

No action by the Pope or Vatican is going to completely overcome the innate sexual desires of every priest in the Catholic Church. Unlike the priests in Eastern Orthodox and Greek Orthodox churches and the imams in Islam, the prohibition of marriage by Catholic priests to marry has the continuing consequences of pedophilia and homosexual relations with other priests, and with other men and women. The Pope has said that marriage of priests may be considered in the future. Now would be a good time to start the serious consideration of this as part of reducing sexual abuse by priests.

Pope Francis I has made serious attempts to straighten out the activities by the Vatican Bank, and has reigned in excesses in spending by high level members of the Catholic established within and outside of the Vatican. The pressure is on now to seriously face up to the issues of sexual abuse by priests.

The Pope’s commitment to stop sexual abuse in the church would be better served by opening up abusers to criminal prosecution and defrocking errant priests instead of hiding them away from public view. He should also reconsider the prohibition of women in the priesthood. The root of the problem with child abuse by priests is that there are no legitimate ways for priests to satisfy the sexual urges that the Creator endowed on humans.

The vast majority of Catholic priests overcome their sexual urges through their service to the church. The Pope has hinted that the church may allow openly homosexual priests to continue in the priesthood someday. This would neither add or subtract from the sexual abuse of children by priests. There are other priests that need to be able to marry and continue their priesthood. Finally, there are some priests that just shouldn't be priests.