Pope's Claim, “I Normally Meet Sex Abuse Victims," is Contradicted by Lack of Action
Pope Francis has a history of dishonesty and hypocrisy on the subject of clerical sex abuse. Survivors of sex abuse, and those who "normally" meet with them, know there are a number of actions the pope can take immediately to protect children, but he refuses to do so.
"On Fridays - sometimes this is known and sometimes it is not known - I normally meet some of them [sex abuse victims]," the pope said. He had “approved for publication” this and other statements he made last month.
“The percentage of pedophiles who are Catholic priests does not reach 2 percent, it’s 1.6 percent. It is not that much,” the pope also told his listeners.
The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recently released their findings that “7 percent of Catholic priests had been accused of abusing children from 1950 to 2010. In some Catholic religious orders the figures were much higher: 40 per cent for the St John of God Brothers and 22 per cent for the Christian Brothers .... Even the Church acknowledges these figures are an understatement because many victims have never come forward and never will.”
A report by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, “The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States,” was based solely on information provided by the bishops. It stated that “between 1960 and 2002 … the total of surveys for priests and deacons with allegations of child sexual abuse … resulted in a percentage slightly more than 4%.”
There have been no other thorough studies regarding the percentage of pedophile priests.
Vatican spokesman and former Fox News correspondent, Greg Burke, confirmed on Feb. 15 that the pope does meets with abuse victims "several times a month" in order to listen to them "and to try to help them heal the grave wounds caused by abuse. Burke said the meetings are held ‘under the strictest privacy’ out of respect for the victims' suffering.”
A History of Dishonesty and Hypocrisy
In the 2010 book, On Heaven and Earth, co-authored by Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Rabbi Abraham Skorka, Pope Francis wrote, “In my diocese [child sex abuse by priests] never happened to me, but a bishop called me once by phone to ask me what to do in a situation like this.”
“There is evidence that Bergoglio knowingly or unwittingly slowed victims in their fight to expose and prosecute their assailants” in at least five cases. "Victims of four offenders say that they sought the cardinal’s help. None of them received it.” According to Bergoglio’s former spokesman, the cardinal “declined to meet with any victims,” reported BishopAccountability.org which keeps a large online archive of documents, reports, and news articles documenting the global abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.
In July 2014, Pope Francis made a vow to hold bishops accountable for preventing sexual abuse by clergy. He said, “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.” He has failed to do so.
Also in 2014, Pope Francis stated that the Vatican should only be responsible “for the 31 children resident in the Vatican City, despite the fact that within those 44 hectares, the Holy See decides whether thousands of clerics from all over the world should continue as priests after the church had found them guilty of sexually abusing children.”
In 2015, Pope Francis announced he was establishing a tribunal, described as “unprecedented,” to investigate bishops “accused of covering up sexual abuse of minors or of failing to protect children from pedophile priests.” It never happened.
In his first and only meeting with the members of his sex abuse commission in September 2017, “Pope Francis repeated his assurance that the Church would ‘respond with the application of the firmest measures.’”
By then, we knew that the pope had been personally informed about six sexual predators and did nothing to stop them, until forced to do so. Since then, it has been revealed that there has been two more occasions when the pope was informed of sexual abuse and took no action to prevent further assaults.
In October 2017, “Pope Francis told executives of leading internet companies to use ‘their great profits’ to defend children from sexual exploitation and other dangers lurking online.” The Vatican was holding a conference called "Child Dignity in the Digital World."
Two months earlier, “Vatican diplomat, Msgr. Carlo Capella, is the subject of an international child pornography investigation, yet he is being harbored by the Vatican while the conference about child abuse images/child pornography and related problems proceeds,” noted Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org
“The case of Msgr. Carlo Capella is by no means unique. Many priests have been convicted of possessing and trading in child abuse images, and many clerical abusers have photographed their victims, partly to memorialize the abuse and share it – even profit from it – and partly to menace their victims. The recent child pornography cases of Archbishop Józef Wesołowski, Bishop Raymond J. Lahey, and Bishop Robert W. Finn’s handling of Father Shawn F. Ratigan, all show that the Catholic Church has ongoing and serious problems with the digitally enabled abuse of children …. Much better if the conference had been devoted to examining honestly the Catholic Church’s own tragic experience with child abuse images and the digital harming of children,” McKiernan noted.
Bishop Juan Barros Madrid
The most recent mendacious statements by Pope Francis concern Bishop Juan Barros Madrid. The pope appointed him as bishop of Osorno, Chile, on Jan. 10, 2015. Victims of the sexual predator, Fr. Fernando Karadima, had accused Barros of being present while Karadima abused them and then covering-up for the priest.
Four days before the pope left for Chile last month, the Associated Press released a letter written by the pope on Jan. 31, 2015, to the Chilean bishops and confirmed by them as authentic.
Pope Francis wrote that his nuncio (ambassador) to Chile had asked Barros to resign “toward the end of 2014.” A nuncio does not have the authority to ask for a bishop’s resignation; this decision can only be made in the Vatican.
“Through the letter [the pope] revealed that he knew about the controversy generated around Barros and that the nuncio in Chile tried to find a way to contain the damage [by suggesting as an alternative that Barrow take a year’s sabbatical] before the case came to light in 2015,” noted the Chilean news site, El Mostrador.
"- On March 21, 2015 Barros made his official entrance into the diocese of Osorno, amid a hurricane of protests.
- Ten days later, on March 31, a statement from the deputy director of the Vatican press office declared that 'prior to the recent appointment of His Excellency Msgr. Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid as bishop of Osorno, Chile, the Congregation for Bishops carefully examined the prelate’s candidature and did not find objective reasons to preclude the appointment.'
Which does not explain why, until the very end of 2014, the Holy See would opt for the resignation of Barros," wrote the experienced Vatican reporter, Sandro Magister.
Also, the January 2015 letter “is opposed to the statements that the pope delivered in [May] 2015, where he publicly defended Barros and even went so far as to say that the inhabitants of Osorno suffered from ‘fools’ and that they allowed themselves to be manipulated by ‘lefties.’ On that occasion, Bergoglio claimed to be ‘the first to judge and punish someone who has accusations of that kind, but in this case there is no proof, I tell you from my heart.’”
During his trip to Chile, on Jan. 18, a journalist asked Pope Francis about Barros. He replied, "There is not one shred of proof against him. It's all calumny. Is that clear?" The pope added, “So far I haven’t seen any [proof against Barros] at all.
One victim, Juan Carlos Cruz, replied, "As if one could have taken a selfie or photo while Karadima abused me and others while Barros stood by." “Who knows how many victims now will decide to stay hidden for fear they will not be believed?” asked Ann Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org.
During the press conference on the flight back to Rome on Jan. 22, Pope Francis acknowledged he wrote the January 2015 letter. “In the case of Bishop Barros, I had it studied, I had it investigated, I had it worked on a lot. And truly there is no evidence. I use the word evidence.”
Pope Francis continued on the subject of Barros: “I have to ask forgiveness because the word ‘proof’ wounded, it wounded many people who were abused." However, “[It is] calumny, [if] anyone says with obstinacy, without evidence, that he did this, he did that... it is calumny.”
The pope also claimed, “I have continued with zero tolerance [for clergy who sexually abuse children]. After almost 5 years of being pope, I have not signed any ‘permission of pardon.’”
“Pope Francis’s claim that he has never exercised leniency after a canonical trial and appeal may well be true, but it is not true where he has been requested by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine to dismiss a priest, and it is not true of the CDF when it exercises its own powers. [In some cases, the pope] has granted leniency by refusing to accept CDF dismissal recommendations for some of the worst offenders, and instead, required them to live a ‘life of prayer and penance’ with restrictions on their public ministry,” noted the civil lawyer and an author on canon law, Kieran Tapsell.
On Feb. 5, it was reported that Pope Francis received an eight-page letter from abuse survivor Juan Carlos Cruz through Cardinal Seán O’Malley in April 2015. The pope said while he was in Chile that he had never heard of any victims’ complaints against Bishop Juan Barros. Anne Barrett Doyle, of BishopAccountability.org "found it either 'implausible, given the pope’s demonstrated interest in directly managing the scandal around Barros.' The more likely explanation was that the pope 'was being deliberately deceptive in Chile ... when he said he had seen no evidence of Barros’ complicity.'”
In response to the negative publicity generated by the Barros affair, Pope Francis said he was sending Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna to meet with Barros' accusers. Scicluna had won praise for the interviews he did on behalf of the Vatican with the victims of the notorious Mexican pedophile, Fr. Marcial Maciel. "If Scicluna takes the time to interview the men who were children at the time [they were in Karadima's parish], and if he interviews enough people, he will discover the truth and it will depend on the pope to admit that he was wrong and remove Bishop Barros," observed the noted author and Vatican expert, Jason Berry.
Yesterday, it was reported that Pope Francis renewed his sex abuse commission which he had allowed to lapse in December.
Actions the pope should take
For sex abuse survivors and those who actually do meet with them on a regular basis, it has been clear since day one of his pontificate what the pope should do to protect children if he really wanted to. These measures have been advocated for well over a decade and should already be known by past and present "experts" on any sex abuse commission:
Release the names of the priests already convicted by the Vatican for sex abuse and order bishops to release the names of their employees found guilty, or would have been were it not for statutes of limitations, of sex abuse. (This and the following only apply in countries where Catholics are not persecuted.)
Order Vatican employees, and bishops and their employees, to notify civil authorities when they receive a credible report of sex abuse.
Order Vatican employees, and bishops and their employees, to fully cooperate with civil authorities prosecuting cases of sex abuse.
Only the pope can remove "culpable Church officials." Pope Francis has taken no action against any of 17 bishops credibly accused of complicity with abusive priests. A recent investigation in France exposed five additional pedophile-protecting bishops still in office.
Pope Francis has no problem taking action against people for reasons other than sex abuse. He removed Cardinals Gerhard Müller and Raymond Burke from their Vatican positions. He removed Fra’ Matthew Festing as Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, a position equal in status to cardinal in the Catholic Church. He removed the “Bishop of Bling.” He ordered that three priests be fired from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith without explanation.
The time for Pope Francis to stop talking and take action is long overdue.