Barbara Dorris, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, remains skeptical of Pope Francis on the question of episcopal accountability for sex abuse crimes.
In a response to the pope's apparently off-the-cuff comments in Rome, words of contrition taking responsibility for the acts of some priests and promising that the church would "not take one step backward" in dealing with the problem, Dorris said in a statement: "We beg the world’s Catholics: be impressed by deeds, not words. Until the Pope takes decisive action that protects kids be skeptical and vigilant.
"This may be the first time a Pope has talked of sanctions against complicit bishops. But that is all it is: talk." Dorris said that the church still has to make "many, many tangible steps to safeguard children in the church."
She added, "On church [governance], church finances, and simple living, he acts. On the rape of children he talks."
Pope Francis may have felt compelled to make a statement on the crisis after his other recent comments were perceived as too defensive. In a March interview with an Italian paper, he said, “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that moved with transparency and responsibility [to confront abuse]....No one else did as much. And yet, the church is the only one being attacked.”
SNAP's dismissive response to the pope's comments today will surely be seen by some as uncharitable, especially since the Vatican recently empowered a commission, one that includes survivors of abuse, to review the problem and presumably establish universal noms for responding to it. But in fairness to SNAP, how effective the church's global response will be to sexual assaults committed by pastoral workers or clergy remains an open question. The Italian bishops conference recently "encouraged" its members to cooperate with civil authorities in cases of clerical sexual abuse, but said the bishops have no legal obligation to report abuse allegations to the police or other civil authorities. The Vatican also recently declined to extradict Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski to his native Poland to face accusations of sex abuse there. He also faces accusations of abuse in the Dominican Republic, where he served as papal nuncio until his August 2013 dismissal.
The Warsaw Office of the Prosecutor reported the the Vatican had tersely replied to their extradition request, saying that "Archbishop Wesolowski is a citizen of the Vatican, and Vatican law does not allow for his extradition." A Vatican official said in January that "as a diplomat," Archbishop Wesolowsk would be tried at the Vatican.