Pope Francis’ Seven-Year Reign a Disaster for Too Many
The pope will celebrate the 7th anniversary of his election on March 13. He is directly responsible for past, present and future sexual torture and brutalization of children. He has obstructed women’s and LGBTQ persons’ human rights and appeased tyrants.
As Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis “wields the biggest bully pulpit of any spiritual leader on the planet,” noted American political scientist Joseph Nye. The pope should “share the Church’s teachings with the world in order to help shape public discourse and policy in ways that protect the common good and promote the flourishing of all persons.”
From February 17-23, clergy sex abuse survivors and advocates are returning to Rome to mark the one-year anniversary of Pope Francis’ summit on child sex abuse and “demand more action and change” stated the leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Pope Francis made "a lot of promises to the world that he was going to put an end to this and put safety measures into place to ensure that there was no more - or to prevent future coverups," said Brenda Brunelle, who was abused from age 12 and founded the southwestern Ontario chapter of SNAP. "Speaking as a survivor and an advocate for those abused by priests, I'm afraid to say that our report card is a failure."
Former students at the Provolo Institute for the Deaf in Italy - where more than one hundred deaf and mute children had been sexually abused - “handed to Pope Francis” an open letter and video message in May 2014. They told him that one of the accused perpetrators, Fr. Nicola Corradi, held a current position at the Provolo Institute in Argentina. Tragically for the children, the pope took no action to stop Corradi.
Prosecutors said the anal and vaginal rapes, fondling and oral sex took place in various locations including the chapel. “One of the alleged victims said she witnessed how a girl was raped by one priest while the other one forced her to give him oral sex.”
“The tormentors knew the other children wouldn’t hear the screams as they were deaf.”
Corradi was convicted of sexual abuse and rape on Nov. 25, 2019. The trial was attended by “dozens of survivors and their supporters demanding transparency and justice for the ‘abominable crimes’ committed at the Institute.”
From day one of his reign, Pope Francis could have taken effective action to protect children around the world. If he had asked any expert, he would have been referred to the dozens of reports by attorneys general, grand juries, individuals, commissions, and organizations completed before 2013, all concurring that - at the least - child sex abuse should be reported to the police immediately, Church officials who aided and abetted the perpetrators must be held accountable and that Church officials must turn over their documents to civil authorities
After his election, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (January 2014) “told Pope Francis he should “order through canon law mandatory reporting to civil authority. Pope Francis rejected that request.”
The UN Committee Against Torture (May 2014) “ordered the Vatican to hand over files containing details of clerical sexual abuse allegations to police forces around the world … to use its authority over the Roman Catholic Church worldwide to ensure all allegations of clerical abuse are passed on to secular authorities and to impose ‘meaningful sanctions’ on any Church officials who fail to do so.” Pope Francis has rejected these findings also.
So, “We will look to police and prosecutors for transparency and truth,” said Brenda Brunelle, SNAP Leader from Windsor, Ontario. “We are not relying on promises from Church officials anymore; it is we survivors and our allies in government and media who are going to force through change.” said Mary Dispenza, SNAP Leader from Seattle, WA.
"It is entirely possible today, as it was a year ago, for a bishop to knowingly keep an abuser in ministry or return him to ministry and for neither one of them to suffer a consequence," Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of Bishop Accountability said. She predicted that "civil authorities, one country at a time," would force Church authorities to take a tougher approach, and doubted that "this pope or any pope" could put an end to impunity.
“Between 4.7% – 13.2% of maternal deaths can be attributed to unsafe abortion” each year from 2010 to 2014 inclusive. “Around 7 million women are admitted to hospitals every year in developing countries as a result of unsafe abortion. Almost every abortion death and disability could be prevented through sexuality education, use of effective contraception, provision of safe, legal induced abortion, and timely care for complications,” according to the World Health Organization.
Furthermore, “every day in 2017, approximately 810 women died from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth,” the World Health Organization reported. This is a tragedy not only in developing countries. “Sadly, about 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote.
In May 2018, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, Pope Francis’ representative to the U.N. agencies in Geneva, said “It is a contradiction to claim that promoting access to safe abortions is somehow protecting the human rights of women and girls” at a meeting of the World Health Organization to set policies and programs.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis’ secretary of state, criticized an international commitment “to ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including family planning, information and education” as part of the UN’s Agenda for Sustainable Development. He protested the inclusion of “deeply concerning and divisive” terms like “sexual and reproductive health-care services” and “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights” in the statement he made at the UN in September 2019.
Pope Francis said that abortion can never be condoned, even when the fetus is likely to die. “Is it licit to hire a hitman to resolve a problem?” he asked in May 2019. With no allowances even to save the life of the mother, Pope Francis categorized every abortion as “eliminating those who are inconvenient” in January.
Pope Francis strongly opposed distributing contraceptives as part of humanitarian work in a confidential letter published by Wikileaks. The letter, dated Dec. 1, 2016, directed U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, patron of the organization providing the humanitarian aid, to have it stopped.
The Reproductive Health Matters report includes this reminder: “Seen in the broader context of a ‘religious resurgence’ in international relations, and in light of the fact that the Vatican has frequently sought to form alliances with conservative State and non-State actors, these findings [of Vatican involvement in international forums] make an important contribution to understanding the slow progress as well as the potential obstacles that lie ahead in the battle to realize sexual and reproductive health rights in a changing global political environment.”
Pope Francis granted Vice President Mike Pence a private audience on Jan. 24, 2020. It was “a remarkably long meeting especially for one not involving a head of state.”
The audience had been scheduled to take place during the Senate impeachment trial of Trump and on the same day that Trump attended an anti-abortion rally in Washington, “the first sitting U.S. president to do so in the history of the annual March for Life’s history.”
Violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning “may be executed by the state, as in laws prescribing corporal punishment for homosexual acts, or by individuals engaging in intimidation, mobbing, assault, or lynching. Violence targeted at people because of their perceived sexuality can be psychological or physical and can extend to murder,” as reported by Wikipedia.
Although global statistics are hard to come by, “the number of hate crime incidents targeting gays, lesbians, and bisexuals in the United States in 2018 increased by nearly 6 percent over the previous year and the number of anti-transgender hate crime incidents increased by 41 percent during that same period - a total of 7,120 hate crime incidents,” per the FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics Report.
“On more than one occasion” Pope Francis’ representative at the U.N., Archbishop Bernardito Auza, has denounced transgender “ideology” i.e. “everyone can choose his or her sex”, as “a danger, a threat to the future - especially of children - a step backwards for humanity.”
As regards homosexuals and lesbians, Pope Francis said that he follows the Church’s Catechism teaching that they “be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” but this “sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex” is “objectively disordered.”
"For this reason," Pope Francis said, "the Church recommends that people with this deep-seated tendency not be accepted into ministry or into consecrated life [brothers and nuns]." In addressing a group of bishops, he said “"If you have even the slightest doubt [about their homosexuality], it is better not to let them in [the seminary]."
“For queer Catholics, the only way to establish ourselves as mature adults is through marriage, ordination, or religious vows - all of which are forbidden,” noted Ashley O’Mara after attending a talk by Fr. James Martin on “How Parishes Can Welcome LGBT Catholics.”
Russia, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Vatican are the “unholy trinity” in the U.N. as regards “resistance to promoting and protecting equal rights and fair treatment for LGBTQ people,” wrote Peter Montgomery. “They are being assisted by global networks of activist organizations” who are “fighting equality in other international arenas such as the European Union and Organization of American States,” he stated.
“The Trump administration and conservative Supreme Court have alternatively fixated on removing LGBTQ protections, including banning openly transgender people from serving in the military and considering LGBTQ discrimination viable under the protection of religious freedom,” Trish Bendix reported.
Although the massacre had been ongoing since his election in March 2013, Pope Francis held a peace rally for Syria only after Pres. Obama proposed a limited air strike to deter the further use of chemical weapons against civilians.
Pope Francis wrote a letter to Vladimir Putin, host of the G-20 summit held on the eve of his Sept. 7, 2013, rally “urging world leaders to oppose a military intervention in Syria,” Elizabeth Dias noted.
“Moscow was pleased after Francis opposed a proposed U.S.-led military intervention in Syria, a key Russian ally,” according to Reuters. Putin credited Pope Francis “with being decisive in halting the momentum with the G-20 towards supporting the initiative,” reported Ines San Martin.
In March 2014, “Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in an illegal move that violated the territorial integrity of the former Soviet republic and sparked a war,” wrote Alice Popovici for history.com.
“NATO commander Gen. Philip Breedlove said Russian military equipment and Russian combat troops have been seen entering Ukraine in columns over several days” in November 2014.
On Feb. 4, 2015, “Pope Francis prayed that ‘this horrible fratricidal violence will cease as soon as possible.’ Stunned that the pope viewed the conflict as a civil war, Ukrainian Catholic bishops went to Rome to tell Pope Francis the truth about the war in their country after complaints by some Ukrainians that the Vatican was being influenced by Russian propaganda,” reported Laura Ieraci.
A meeting between Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch KirillKirill took place on Feb. 12, 2016, in Havana. “In the Era of Putin, the Russian Orthodox Church has resumed much of its former imperial role as a servant of the State. And in a time of renewed Russian confidence and aggression abroad, the Russian Orthodox Church has become an important instrument of state power,” explained Katie Kelaidis
After the meeting, The Economist asked: “Did the pope just kiss Putin’s ring? Russia wants its people to believe that Western republics are not as hostile as their leaders. Pope Francis just helped.” The meeting with Kirill was “a diplomatic victory” for Putin.
“The meeting with Francis has helped to underscore Russia’s renewed standing as a global power ….
The joint declaration issued after the meeting hewed close to the Kremlin’s positions on the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine ….
The joint declaration deplores “hostility” in Ukraine, but omits any mention of Russia’s role, casting it as an internal struggle ….”
The joint declaration also included a denouncement of same-sex marriage. Putin “also takes the position held by Pope Francis that ‘tolerance of gender choice results from a Western imperial ideology,’” observed Peter Gardella.
Pope Francis granted Putin a third private audience on July 4, 2019. Putin’s visit came “amid signs of closer ties between the Kremlin and the Roman Catholic Church,” reported Bloomberg and “at a time when Russia is playing a more ambitious and divisive role around the world” noted the Washington Post.
On Feb. 13, 2020, Pope Francis met in private with Metropolitan Hilarion, a Russian Orthodox bishop and chairman of its department on foreign affairs. The next day, Putin “vowed Russia will never have same-sex marriage for as long as he’s president in furious rant. The leader also signaled his support for a constitutional change to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.”
It was announced on August 5, 2016, that – after more than two years of negotiations – the Vatican and Beijing reached a preliminary agreement whereby a government-controlled organization would prepare a list of candidates for bishop and the pope would choose from among them.
China and the Vatican signed an agreement on September 22, 2018, ratifying the above. The Chinese government now appoints all Catholic bishops. By agreement, the pope can accept or reject a candidate. In reality, this has not happened.
Pope Francis “has effectively given Xi Jinping a stamp of approval when the latter’s hostility to religious freedom couldn’t be clearer,” said Sophie Richardson, the China director of Human Rights Watch. “Watching a major world faith come to an agreement with an authoritarian government that’s notorious for repressing religious freedom and to effectively cede some authority to that government sets a very worrying precedent,” Richardson explained. “The deal came as the religious-freedom environment in China reached its worst level in years, as the government has detained Muslim citizens in illegal detention camps, increased control over churches and temples, and sought to incorporate party ideology directly into religious doctrine.”
Abortion is the “preeminent” social and political issue, Pope Francis said during a Jan. 16, 2020, meeting with U.S. bishops the week before his meeting with Pence.
That Pence’s trip to Rome was calculated as a political event given the timing of Trump’s trial and attendance at the anti-abortion rally, was confirmed by the interview Pence gave later the same day he met with Pope Francis. The pro-Trump Catholic Eternal Word Television Network is “the largest religious media network in the world."
In the final days of the 2016 campaign, Trump also gave an interview on EWTN. “People who are faith-based are not being accepted in our country anymore,” he told his audience.
Trump won the Evangelical Southern and rural states as expected. But, “his victory in the Electoral College came down to a razor-thin edge of only 77,744 votes across three states: Pennsylvania (44,292 votes), Wisconsin (22,748 votes), and Michigan (10,704 votes)” reported Robert P. Jones. All are states where there are more Catholics than Evangelicals. Trump won 60% of white Catholics, as compared to only 46% of the national popular vote.
"Fifty-eight percent of Catholics who say they accept all Church teaching said they are 'sure to vote' for Donald Trump in 2020" compared to 32% of all registered voters who gave the same answer. These Catholic voters "favored Trump over Joe Biden by 18 percentage points, over Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders by 25 percentage points, and over Pete Buttigieg by 26 percentage points" in a November poll.
(Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America.)