Could Pope Francis’ record on sexual abuse threaten his legacy?

(AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — It has been a wretched year for Pope Francis, whose blind spot on clergy sex abuse conspired with events beyond his control to threaten his legacy and throw the Catholic hierarchy into a credibility crisis not seen in modern times.

The latest development — a high-profile verdict in a far-away country — cements the impression that Francis simply didn't "get it" when he first became pope in 2013 and began leading the church.

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Early missteps included associating with compromised cardinals and bishops and downplaying or dismissing rumors of abuse and cover-up. Francis finally came around in 2018, when he publicly admitted he was wrong about a case in Chile, made amends, and laid the groundwork for the future by calling an abuse prevention summit next year.

But damage to his moral authority on the issue has been done. Before his eyes were opened, Francis showed that he was a product of the very clerical culture he so often denounces, ever ready to take the word of the clerical class over victims.

The year started off well enough: Francis dedicated his annual Jan. 1 peace message to the plight of migrants and refugees. Soon thereafter, he baptized 34 cooing babies in the Sistine Chapel and urged their mothers to nurse, a typical Franciscan show of informal practicality amid the splendor of Michelangelo's "Last Judgment."

Then came Chile .

Francis' January visit was dominated by the clergy abuse scandal there, and featured unprecedented protests against a papal visit: churches were firebombed and riot police used water cannons to quell demonstrations.

Chilean opposition to Francis had actually begun three years prior, when the Argentine-born pope appointed Juan Barros as bishop of the southern diocese of Osorno. Francis had dismissed allegations that Barros ignored and covered up abuse by Chile's most prominent predator priest, imposing him on a diocese that wanted nothing to do with him.

But damage to his moral authority on the issue has been done. Before his eyes were opened, Francis showed that he was a product of the very clerical culture he so often denounces.

"The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I'll speak," Francis said on his final day in Chile. "There is not one shed of proof against him. It's all slander. Is that clear?"

Francis defended Barros because one of his friends and advisers, Chilean Cardinal Javier Errazuriz, defended Barros. Francis in 2013 had named Errazuriz to his inner circle, a formal parallel cabinet of nine cardinals who meet every three months at the Vatican.

Chilean victims, though, had long charged that Errazuriz had been deaf to their claims while he was archbishop of Santiago, giving cover to abusers and their enablers. Francis disregarded the victims' concerns and appointed Errazuriz to the high-profile cabinet post.

In the wake of his disastrous trip to Chile, Francis slowly came around to the victims' view, in part in response to reporting by The Associated Press. He ordered an in-depth investigation into the Chilean church, admitted to "grave errors in judgment" and personally apologized to the victims he had discredited. He accused the Chilean leadership of creating a "culture of cover-up" and secured the resignations of every active bishop there, Barros included. He vowed that the Catholic Church would "never again" hide abuse, and earlier this month the Vatican announced Francis had fired Errazuriz from the cabinet.

Also removed was Cardinal George Pell, who left his post as the Vatican's economy minister in June 2017 to stand trial for historical sex abuse offenses in his native Australia. Like Errazuriz, Pell had been the target of abuse victims' ire for years, well before Francis brought him to the Vatican, given his prominent role in Australia and the church's horrific record with abuse there.

Both men deny wrongdoing. But their continued presence on the Council of Nine, as the cabinet is called, became a source of scandal for the pope, who bid them farewell in October with a letter thanking them for their service. For Pell, the C9 removal suggests he won't resume work at the Vatican since his five-year term expires early next year.

They are not the only cardinals on the hot seat: The current archbishop of Santiago is under investigation in a broad criminal inquiry into sex abuse cover-up. Prosecutors in a dozen U.S. states are investigating church files. A cover-up trial in France has two cardinals as defendants, including the Spaniard who heads the Vatican office that processes sex abuse cases. The Holy See invoked sovereign immunity to spare Spain's Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer. But it has no such power to protect Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, France, who is accused of failing to report a self-confessed abusive priest to authorities. Francis has said French justice should take its course but has praised Barbarin as "brave."

Despite such problems, with the Chile scandal largely atoned for and decisions made to purge his inner circle of compromised members, Francis appeared by summer to be well on his way to steering himself out of the 2018 sex abuse crisis.

Then Round 2 hit.

In July, Francis removed U.S. Archbishop Theodore McCarrick as a cardinal after church investigators said an allegation that he groped a teenage altar boy in the 1970s was credible. Subsequently, several former seminarians and priests reported that they too had been abused or harassed by McCarrick as adults.

A month later, a grand jury report in Pennsylvania revealed seven decades of abuse and cover-up in six dioceses, with allegations that more than 1,000 children had been molested by about 300 priests. Most of the priests were dead, and the crimes far pre-dated Francis' papacy.

But the combined scandal created a crisis in confidence in the U.S. and Vatican hierarchy. It was apparently common knowledge in the U.S. and Vatican leadership that "Uncle Ted," as McCarrick was known, slept with seminarians, and yet he still he rose undisturbed up the church ranks.

Having removed McCarrick and approved a canonical trial against him, Francis should have emerged as the hero in the saga since he righted the wrong of St. John Paul II, the pope from 1978-2005 who had promoted McCarrick to begin with and whose record on abuse issues is far worse than Francis' given his inaction.

But Francis' get-tough victory lap was cut short when a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S. accused the pope himself of participating in the McCarrick cover-up.

In an 11-page denunciation in August, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano claimed that Vatican officials from the top on down over the course of three pontificates had known about McCarrick's penchant for seminarians, and turned a blind eye.

But Francis' get-tough victory lap was cut short when a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S. accused the pope himself of participating in the McCarrick cover-up.

Vigano wrote that he had told Francis in 2013, at the start of his pontificate, that McCarrick had "corrupted a generation" of seminarians and priests and that Pope Benedict XVI had eventually sanctioned him for his sexual misconduct.

Vigano claimed Francis disregarded his 2013 warning and rehabilitated McCarrick from those sanctions, making him a key adviser and entrusting him with delicate missions to China and elsewhere.

Francis never responded to Vigano's laundry list of claims. Instead, Francis took to blaming the devil — "the Great Accuser" — for sowing division and discord in the church, an indirect jab at Vigano that only fueled conservative outrage at Francis and demands that he come clean about what he knew about McCarrick and when.

The Vatican didn't help Francis' standing any when, without providing any plausible reason, it blocked U.S. bishops from adopting accountability measures to try to restore trust with their flocks.

It now seems clear that Francis, at least at the start of his pontificate, was willing to overlook past sexual misbehavior or cover-up claims if those responsible had atoned. Francis launched his pontificate with his famous "Who am I to judge" comment, about a gay priest whom he had appointed to a top advisory position despite allegations he had had a string of lovers.

That comment, which won him plaudits from liberal Catholics and landed him on the cover of Advocate magazine, may now be his undoing. If he had judged his advisers more scrupulously at the start of his pontificate on their abuse and cover-up records, he might have retained more credibility in 2018.

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Nora Bolcon
8 months 3 weeks ago

Interesting that we jump up and down about child sex abuse while these critics and groups have no problem with the unjust and hate-filled biased treatment against women. Once again SNAP, Voice of the Faithful, Future Church - and all of you groups who claim to care about this crisis but don't demand same sacraments for women: SEXISM CAUSES CHILD ABUSE! Not maybe but definitely. This is a proven fact based on evidence not opinion. Your groups' refusals, despite people like me begging you to act to support an end to misogynistic abuse in our church, helped, through the decades, to make this child abuse story what it is.
Even now, I hear you pleading with Pope Francis to allow married male priests, knowing that this will result in further abuse of women's human dignity and outright gender segregation, if women are not ordained priests first. At the least, this segregation will postpone justice for women, in our church, perhaps forever. Clearly you forget the adage that justice delayed is justice denied. Meanwhile, you knowingly cause reason for pedophilia to increase in our church, since now, if you get your wish, and optional celibacy for an all-male priesthood is allowed, greater sexism will take place, and as married men have a higher rate of sexually abusing children than even single or celibate men, pedophilia will increase along with the sexism you supported. I say to you all - Either quit complaining or act for justice!

Below are just five of the ways in which sexism has, and continues to lead to pedophilia in our church by clerics:

Sexism and Pedophilia in Catholicism - How One Supports the Other

During the mandatory abuse prevention video training, lay ministers must now take in the Catholic Church, we are informed that there is no link or evidence that either homosexuality or celibacy causes child abuse of any variety. This is true.

However, why does our hierarchy not also inform us that there is a most certain and proven link between all-male leadership in religion and pedophilia?

Below are just five of the many ways single gender or all-male leadership in our church has been directly linked to our church's pedophilia crisis. (These are a sample only)

1. Because women abuse children not even near half the rate men do (6-10% compared of what men do), including married men (who have a slightly higher rate than unmarried men), simply having a hierarchy consisting of half females would have lowered our rate dramatically and automatically since less pedophiles leads to less victims.

2. Women, because they are often victims of sexual abuse, are more likely, statistically, to point out and report abusive behavior against children, teens, and women than men. This reporting is far more frequent when the women are at the same authority level, or higher level, than the abusing males.

3. Male priest abusers tend to use their state of high prestige, due to clerical exclusivity, respect, and admiration from women to "groom" them, in order to gain access to attack their children. This was often the case in our church crisis, as many predatory priests narrowed in on and sought to become more intimate friends with recently divorced and widowed women or single women with mental disabilities who had children still living with them. Having no concern for the women, they used their priestly aura and believed spiritual potency to enchant these vulnerable and often lonely women, gaining them greater and more intimate access to their vulnerable children. Why is this sexism? - these priests intentionally did not go after the kid, in the family, whose father was present and an ex-marine.

4. If we had priests who were male and female, (and if this pool were still not sufficient, then perhaps even married priests, as well, along with celibate priests,) we would have no vocation crisis. Protestant churches with gender integrated hierarchies do not have any vocation crisis. This would give us ample candidates for priesthood and therefore we would be able to deny more of the questionable priestly candidates applying. When there are few choices to pick from, desperation has led our church into choosing candidates it knew had problems even before ordination. When I worked in a rectory during the late 1980s - early 1990s (for seven years), our pastor was a psychologist (rare at that time) so they sent him a couple of new priests that had issues, in the hopes he could somehow make them into capable priests. One of them was let go later on because he spread rumors from what some people had told him, only in the confessional, to other parishioners he had culled into his personal click. The other one, later on, was found to be a pedophile priest with multiple counts against him. We are still likely doing this, even now, that is picking candidates from desperation, because our candidates are still very few given our needs.

5. Already, through a rather low on the totem pole ministry, altar serving, we have taken a big hit at abuse access by allowing this ministry to become gender integrated. In the 1990s this change had still not spread into many of the parishes. By 2005 many parishes had well gender integrated alter server pools. Before this ministry was gender integrated, most parents of adolescent boys would allow a trip to the pastor's or associate pastor's family retreat at the beach or cabin in the woods, etc. because they trusted their priest and it was all boys so what is the worry? However, this type of access or these trips led to many male altar servers being victimized and often in multiple amounts. Having female altar servers in the mix makes this kind of trip offer uncomfortable for the priest to make. How does a priest offer a trip only to the boys without upsetting the girls? Most parents are not going to allow young girls on a trip with young boys with only a priest as a chaperone. Gender exclusivity allows greater access to male children and teens within patriarchy and has them treated less as children and teens by priests.

The above are only a portion of how sexism in our church causes evil and violence in our church. This does not even touch on the other horrors our religious sexism causes in our world. Our witness as Christians is soiled as we promote the view that women are not as sacred as men, or capable of representing Christ equally to men, ignoring what Christ has taught, that the flesh is nothing and the Spirit in a person is everything. People watch what we do more than what we say. As our witness of 'Sexism is ok with Jesus' takes place on our altars, and within our laws and teachings, we promote sexism in the workforce, governments, and family life outside our churches, on a global scale. What evils have already been proven to be promoted by religious sexism (including Catholicism's), in our world, include the following: war, terrorism, poverty, child abuse (sexual and otherwise), sex trafficking, disease, forced illiteracy, forced polygamy, rape, murder, female genital mutilation, and the list goes on.

Unlike other flesh biases, religion is perhaps the largest sponsor of sexism in the modern world. We must act within our religions to put an end to it, or there is little point fighting sexism in society, as it will only return, again and again, continually being re-energized by religion.

If you really care about children, fight for women's same treatment and sacraments in our church immediately and protest at all ordinations of permanent deacons and demand lay women and lay men equally lead priestless parishes in your diocese by demanding no deacon led parishes to your bishops. Bishops can allow either deacons or lay people to lead priestless parishes so don't allow your bishop to try to normalize the laity with married male only leadership unless you are as willing to wait for pedophilia to decrease in your parishes as you are willing to wait for women being ordained priests, bishops, and made cardinals and popes. IT REALLY IS UP TO US! SO STOP BLAMING THE POPES WE ALLOWED TO ABUSE BOTH WOMEN AND CHILDREN WHEN WE COULD HAVE DEMANDED REAL CHANGE AGES AGO THAT WOULD HAVE PREVENTED MUCH OF THIS ABUSE AND GIVEN US A FAR MORE GENUINELY JUST AND CHRISTIAN CHURCH. You want a safe church? - make one! Demand change now and where it counts! Do something real or please stop whining.

sheila gray
8 months 3 weeks ago

Nora: Your arrogance, rage and lack of new ideas is appalling. The root cause of the Clergy Abuse Crisis is the desire to protect Donations. Pure & Simple. Survivors need a permanent Healing Center. Want to help? Help Survivors build what we need now, and to prepare to help all the victims who’ll be stumbling in around the 20-year mark after 2002, the year the CC claims it all got better... NOT!!! Get ready for 2022 and beyond.

Nora Bolcon
8 months 3 weeks ago

Sorry - no arrogance - just facts. Our church knows that sexism causes pedophilia and I already gave you a list of five actual ways "FACTS" of how that sexism has translated into child sexual abuse in our church. Facts don't need to be new or in vogue, they merely need to be correct and my facts are based on solid evidence in and out of our church which you may feel free to research yourself. It is not difficult to find solid reputable sources online to help you understand the absolute link between religious sexism and child sexual abuse-it has been well researched. However, like all truth, you have to want to know the truth before you can genuinely receive it and create a better world based on that foundation. You are clearly not there yet. I pray that you will soon get there because right now our church is trying to normalize married male only priesthood rather than ordain women priests and that is why parishes are constantly having deacons stuffed down their throats even if they really don't want them. Gender segregation will lead to more pedophilia just as patriarchy has already led to the horrible child abuse in our church's past. Time to face our sins or stop complaining about the results they create.

Paul Perez
8 months 3 weeks ago

Ms. Bolcon,
Why do you remain a Catholic? It is obvious that you are very unhappy. Might I suggest the Episcopal denomination? It liturgies closely resemble those of the Catholic Church (some call it "Catholic lite"). Externally, the Episcopal church has a "just" priestly class. I am afraid, however, that you will not escape the pedophilia problem -- despite its "just" priesthood.

Michael Ward
8 months 3 weeks ago

"Protestant churches with gender integrated hierarchies do not have any vocation crisis." True enough as they have way more clergy per capita due to a devastating loss of faithful members of their churches. At this rate is possible that the last Episcopalian in America has already been born. They have a crisis of membership...to the extent that some seminarians have a hard time obtaining viable pastorates.

Mike Macrie
8 months 3 weeks ago

Nora, I admire your passion for reform in the Catholic Church. Dorothy Day was also demonized in her passion to reform the Church. I’m a volunteer in the administration of our Parish. The administration is run mostly by conservative women. I see and hear and do not speak in my duties ( LOL). You would get no support on women in Priesthood from our Parish for sure. For example, on married priests, comments made “we would have to support their wives and children”, not said was they would become subordinate to the wife.
But you are right, there is a crisis of getting enough qualified priests in the Catholic Church that serve the spiritual needs of the parishioners. I now hear that some people are going to mass to other parishes because they don’t like the priests in their own parish. The current sex abuse scandals is only going to decrease the number of qualified men to enter the Priesthood.
The Church has addressed the problem with the use of Men Deacons who have advanced from the Readings to giving the Homilies. Their Homilies are good and to the point in our Parish at least. So how does the Church address the shortage of qualified Priests ? We will not see women being ordained as Priests in our lifetime but never say never. I see the role of Deacons being expanded in the short term and being paid, not sure if some are not already being paid.
The Catholic Church is a Conservative Religious Institution to its doctrines of Faith. Ordaining women as Priests can create a new set of Problems. The majority of volunteers in our Parish come from opinionated Conservative Women, will they accept women priests ? Will it hasten the split of the Church into two churches Conservative and Liberal as some Church Voices predict ? I do see however, the Church permitting women to become Deacons as a possible solution to help the problem in the shortage of qualified priests.

Tim O'Leary
8 months 3 weeks ago

Excellent summary and analysis of the sad year for the Church and Pope Francis. There will be plenty of anti-Catholics like Nora Bolcon who try to use this crisis for their own heretical wishes, which will not work, of course, but will only inject heresy into a crisis of discipline. Pope Francis has a chance to reverse this slide in credibility at the Feb meeting, and I hope he permits the US bishops to fully investigate the McCarrick affair. Despite the grandstanding from the Attorneys General of various states, I think their investigations will mainly focus on historical abuse of minors by long dead priests and not get at the contemporary scandal: young adult abuse in the seminaries and the enablers behind McCarrick and his ilk. The Church will have to do its own investigation in parallel and institute reforms around the world. It cannot wait for years for the legal processes to wind their ways through the various court systems.

Nora Bolcon
8 months 3 weeks ago

Yep - I am the heretic who will stand up for what Jesus commanded of all people who want to be recognized as saved and belonging to him: Love your neighbor as yourself - Treat no one any differently than you wish to be treated (no matter who they are and no matter who you are.) So that leaves no room for different sacraments based on gender. Jesus also told us that in the final days there will be those who go up to him and call him Lord! Lord! but he will respond to them "I do not know you". Who are these people who believed they were Christ's but their behavior in life rendered them unrecognizable to Christ when they needed him the most?
If a pope tells you to break a clear command of Christ, and demands you treat one person less than another, based on their flesh and not their skills and character, then it can be stated accurately, that if Jesus is your Lord, instead of the Pope, you will not only refuse to break the command of Christ but will defend the Church against the teaching, of that pope, who stated church members must break the command or they will be treated as heretics. No pope, or all bishops put together, are greater than Christ, and Christ's commands must be followed even over a pope's if one wishes to be saved. Our Church belongs first to Jesus Christ or we are all dead people.
Our pope has admitted that he is a sinner and imperfect. I agree that he has proven that in his treatment of women in our church. This does not mean that I believe Pope Francis was not anointed by God to be Pope and the primary leader of our Church, not at all, I do, in fact, believe he was and is our Church's anointed leader, chosen by God. However, it is God who reminds me that King Saul and King David were also genuinely anointed by God and it did not prevent them from straying from God and causing the Israelite People and their own families enormous pain with their arrogant mistakes and sins. I feel no disloyalty to God or the Roman Catholic Church which claims that the membership is allowed to follow their conscience, if they feel the leadership is demanding they break from Gospel Truth. The ban on women's same ordination and same sacraments shows a direct divergence away from Christ's command to treat all the same and with same love. This command is in every Gospel. Yet no where in any gospel does Christ tell his apostles or anyone else that it is acceptable to treat women differently than men.

Tim O'Leary
8 months 3 weeks ago

Nora - It is Jesus who established the Catholic Church and the male priesthood and He also said the Holy Spirit would protect it from error. That same Church, protected from error, has declared the male priesthood infallible. The Eastern Orthodox agree. It is not a new invention but comes from Christ. So, you are making up your own religion, and interpreting scriptures on your own authority, narrowing and limiting it according to your own fashion and prejudices. If you are sola scriptura, read the following: Mt 19, 1 Cor. 11:2–16, 1 Cor. 14:34–35 and 1 Tim. 2:11–14, 1 Tim. 3:1–7, Tit. 1:5–9.
You are also making up your own facts. You say "Protestant churches with gender integrated hierarchies do not have any vocation crisis." But, ALL the mainline Protestant churches who started ordaining women in the last 50 years (and more recently homosexuals) are disappearing. The site Juicy Ecumenism tracks this decline. See also this 2017 Washington Post article: "If it doesn’t stem its decline, mainline Protestantism has just 23 Easters left."

Bev Ceccanti
8 months 3 weeks ago

If you are Catholic you are uneducated in the basics of the Faith. The Christian Bible came out of the Church (Catholic,)(about 300+ years after Christ). It didn't happen the other way around. The Sacraments were established by Christ Himself. I haven't got the patience to respond further.

arthur mccaffrey
8 months 3 weeks ago

thank you Nicole Winfield, you write good stuff. It has been obvious to me that this Pope--despite his media popularity for providing good "sound bites" ---just doesn't "get it", and he has been leading from the back of the pack instead of from the front. It has been a painful learning process to watch, and it is still amazing why so many people pin their hopes on Francis&Co. to put their house in order when they are the ones who messed it up in the first place. Also Nicole, please write a story about how the local State AGs and judiciaries have been slow to get into the fray and start taking initiatives to investigate local dioceses without waiting for these criminals to investigate themselves. The stories of coverup began in Boston 16 years ago, but it is only in 2018 that we are finally beginning to see preemptive strikes by civil authorities in PA and elsewhere--keep up your good work!

Tim O'Leary
8 months 3 weeks ago

Arthur - do you know how many priests were actually convicted and sent to prison in the Boston courts the 16 years since Spotlight and all the hoopla? Is that your definition of success? Would you be praising the Church if they had that success rate? My point is not to stop law enforcement, but to realize their own limitations. They are definitely not a cure-all, just part of the solution.

Dr Robert Dyson
8 months 3 weeks ago

"The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I'll speak". But why is it thought wrong of the Holy Father to have said this? We seem increasingly to think nowadays that people who are accused of sexual misconduct should be condemned and punished regardless of any proof or evidence being brought against them. Surely this is wrong - contrary to the natural-law presumption of innocence to which all accused persons are entitled. The question, What proof do you have? is a fair and proper one; complaining about the fact that it is asked at all is the reverse of fair and proper.

J. Calpezzo
8 months 3 weeks ago

Of course it taints his legacy. He has done nothing but sit back and wait for resignations. Then there is Roger Mahony, who cost the L.A. Archdiocese far more than the $720 million it shelled out to victims. Pro life talk and talk about saving creation is cheap when you do nothing about child rape.

Bill Pelke
8 months 3 weeks ago

I am not Catholic. I was raised Baptist and am present a member of the United Methodist Church. Pope Francis is a man of God who tries his best to live as Jesus tells us to live. He is a man of God, not because of appointment, but because of his love for God the Father and His son Jesus Christ. Pope Francis knows the great commandment is all about love and he exudes it. His love for the poor, the prisoner, the homeless, the immigrants , the victims of child abuse and even those who committed the crime is the kind of love Jesus was talking about. Jesus taught forgiveness and it is right to forgive the abuser also. Jesus teaches love and compassion for all of humanity, Pope Francis is the bravest man I know. If he finds that things the church did in the past are no longer acceptable he calls for a change. As in the instance of the death penalty by saying it can never be sanctioned because it "attacks" the inherent dignity of all humans. Look at all the past death penalty acts of the Catholic Church. He is a brave man, he learns from his mistakes and he is living the Gospel of Jesus Christ as best he can. Forgiveness is always appropriate, it is a two way street. If he made mistakes along the way I am sure he did so for a good reason. If faced with better reasons I believe he always follows with a better way. He is a man of God

Jim Lein
8 months 3 weeks ago

I agree. He didn't get it. But he is getting it, unlike some leaders who never have and never will admit making a mistake or missing something . Pope John is learning. He is open to examining his behavior and to making corrections before spouting off and attacking, as seems to be the mode here in America. We aren't used to this.

E.Patrick Mosman
8 months 3 weeks ago

When Pope Francis replied "Who am I to judge?" it was essentially a direct repudiation of Jesus's instructions to his Apostles "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." John 20-23
Just as the apostles were to carry Christ’s message to the whole world, so they were to carry his forgiveness or not, In other words to be judges.
Personally I don’t recall Catholic teaching on morality, chastity, purity in thoughts, words and deeds having been canonically replaced by acceptance of homosexuality, same sex marriage or any other former sinful acts.

Tim O'Leary
8 months 3 weeks ago

Patrick - it is not fair to take a politically motivated misinterpretation of Pope Francis's words as his own. He was not at all speaking about doctrine, but about a homosexual priest doing his best to live as a Catholic, using the sacrament of Penance as we all should. Pope Francis has made mistakes, but this is not one of them. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-francis-explains-who-am-i-to-judge-in-his-new-book-21443

E.Patrick Mosman
8 months 3 weeks ago

My comment was in response to the "Who am I to judge" comment, "about a gay priest whom he had appointed to a top advisory position despite allegations he had had a string of lovers." from the subject article.

"If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person?”
was the Pope's response as quoted in the CNS article.
In the latter case if the unnamed person "is willing" to what avoid sinful acts and live a pure life then the Pope's answer should have been "What am I to judge? not "Who am I to Judge" The Pope is the ultimate judge on matters of Faith and Morals on earth according to Catholic doctrine and he cannot shirk that responsibility.

Tom B
8 months 3 weeks ago

Let's see: McCarrick, Cormac Connor-Murphy, the Chilean bishop(s), Julio Grassi (Argentina before his elevation to the papacy): At best incompetent; at worst a crook. He has to go.

Bill Mazzella
8 months 3 weeks ago

Still only two kinds of people. Those who fall and stay down and those who fall and get up again to keep striving. Just as Jesus was betrayed so have popes been betrayed. Hatred and anger is still the biggest sin. Not heresy. Many orthodox will be condemned. Many heretics will be saved. All haters will be condemned.

Lucie Johnson
8 months 3 weeks ago

True, Pope Francis surely grossly underestimated the prevalence of sexual abuse and sexual misbehavior in the clergy. So did Benedict XVI and John Paul II. But Francis is an unusually honest and humble person, and now he sees, admits his mistakes, and will act. I believe he may surprise us, lead the church to some radical reforms, and create an unexpected legacy. I hope so. Let us pray for him.

Judith Jordan
8 months 3 weeks ago

After all the years of enduring Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI and their eternal search for lapse orthodoxy, I have found Pope Francis to be a welcoming, warm man who seems to focus on the Gospel of Christ.

He has faltered with the issues of pedophilia. The sexual abuse of children in the church is probably centuries old and the church has centuries of betrayal toward these children. Let us recall that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were popes when covering up this vile crime was the standard response of the church. It seems there are many who are ready to torch Francis while remaining mostly silent about JP II and Benedict.

I remember when bishop after bishop, trying to explain their cover ups, said they did not look upon pedophilia as a criminal issue, but rather a moral one. Thus they protected the offenders. If we had had married priests with children and women priests, the response would have been very different.

Almost any woman could have told the bishops that a sexual child abuser must never be permitted to be with children again regardless of how much prayer and rehabilitation the offender went through. It is shocking that the powerful men in the church did not understand this simple concept.

Further, it is outrageous that so many want to blame homosexuality. First, it accuses many who are innocent. Second, it will not solve the problem because the accusers are concentrating on the wrong issue, thereby endangering more children.

The illogicality of this is made plain with the following. If the accusers of homosexuality want to keep child sexual abusers away from children, as we should, then they should focus on straight men because they are the largest group of abusers. If the accusers want to have children around groups who abuse the least, then they should place children in the care of lesbians.

Many of you are thinking this is absurd. You are correct. People of faith and people who respect the rule of law, pursue the individual offender; not single out “suspicious” groups. I would have thought we learned this from history when some of the major crimes of the last century were selecting and punishing “dangerous” groups.

Vincent Gaglione
8 months 3 weeks ago

This article was a very disturbing summary of Pope Francis’ evolution of understanding about the pedophilia and sexual abuse crisis in the Church. The point of the article, however, is not the failings but rather, the evolution of his understanding of his own failures as well as those of others. The February 2019 Vatican meeting of presidents of bishops’ conferences will give us the best summary of how far Pope Francis has evolved on understanding and dealing with the issues. Save the condemnations and potshots until then.

What rankles me most is the deliberate avoidance of calling out past Popes who did not deal with the situations at all, who ignored what was said and rumored, and who even promoted perpetrators. Their images and sanctimony remain unsullied while Pope Francis gets crucified trying to deal in real time with the onslaught of the press and the faithful and the vindictive.

Michael Barberi
8 months 3 weeks ago

Vincent - I agree with your comments, especially the deliberate avoidance of calling out past Popes who did not deal with these sexual abuse situations in particular St. JP II. Let's hope and pray that Pope Francis and the February meeting of the heads of the Conferences of Bishops will conduct a thorough and transparent investigation of "all" allegations and put forth a transparent report including the reforms needed and justice for all who are found guilty.

Tim O'Leary
8 months 3 weeks ago

Vincent - - I also want a full investigation of appointments over the last two decades at least, with a view to understanding the role of the popes and cardinals, nuncio and bishops in the selection. When Pope JP II elevated McCarrick, the same consistory (Feb-2001) had 44 Cardinals, and there must have been many other names who were rejected. Coincidentally, it included Walter Kasper, Maradiaga and Bergoglio. So, JPII obviously had limited information on their theology/politics. What other information was kept from him? According to Fr. Ramsey and Archbishop Vigano, not all allegations that reached the Vatican reached the Holy Father.

The same might happening again with Pope Francis, who also bemoaned the gay lobby within the Vatican. Were all his choices really his or were some those of McCarrick or others? There must be some documents on each candidate put in front of the pope. My primary goal is a better selection process of bishops and cardinals in the future, based on fidelity in mind, body and soul.

The investigation of the Vatican procedures and processes should include the following: how is/was information handled: who got to see it, and when: what criteria for credibility was used to pass it along or just file it (e.g. are claims and charges coming in all the time, many not credible); were lawyers involved early or late: - so many questions that a fair-minded judicial panel of mostly lay people could discover and recommend reforms. No pope is free of bias, bad judgment, and even venality. Our popes are sinful men, like we all are, and not all are intellectual giants or saints. Sanctity is not dependent on these attributes, only on a repentant heart and a sincere surrender of one's will to the Lord, at the end of one's life. This is Pope Francis' moment. He can have a papacy that history compares to Liberius or Pope Gregory (I or VII). Let's pray for him.

Mister Mckee
8 months 3 weeks ago

Altho American hierarchs are now kicking themselves in the maniples over the fact that their predecessors did nothing to heed the 60 year old warnings they received, it's still not too late for Francis to purchase founding Paraclete Father Fitzgerald's island:
https://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/03/us/03church.html

Mister Mckee
8 months 3 weeks ago

The hierarchs preceding Pope Francis were warned and given a strategy to deal with the problem:
Nor did he get his island. In 1965 Fitzgerald had put a $5,000 deposit on an island in Barbados, near Carriacou, in the Caribbean that had a total purchase price of $50,000. But the new bishop apparently wanted nothing to do with owning an island, and Fitzgerald, who died in 1969, was forced to sell his long-sought means for isolating priest sex offenders.
https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/bishops-were-warned-abusive-priests

Danny Collins
8 months 2 weeks ago

"Francis launched his pontificate with his famous "Who am I to judge" comment, about a gay priest whom he had appointed to a top advisory position despite allegations he had had a string of lovers."

It wasn't just that Monsignor Ricca had a string of gay lovers. He openly lived with his boyfriend in Ecuador. He was caught in a broken down elevator with an underage rent boy (by US standards, the age of consent in Ecuador is 13). Ricca also had to call the police and get taken to the hospital when he had got beat up at a gay cruising spot in Montevideo.

And Francis says, "Who am I to judge?" in response to questions about how someone like that is supposed to help him clean up the Vatican bank? Sexual and financial corruption go hand-in-hand. It's no wonder the financial reforms at the Vatican bank have stalled. Ricca was put there to stymie reforms, not to push them forward. I think it is clear we can expect the same from Francis regarding sexual abuse of minors. Just like he pushed for a convicted child molester to be set free after his conviction while bishop in Argentina, Francis will protect abusers who are loyal to him, no matter the consequences the children. The only exceptions to this will be when the media hold him accountable (as they did in the Barros case). As we can see from the Ricca situation, the media in general isn't willing to do that. Ms. Winfield relied on obfuscations and ambiguity to hide the severity of the accusations against Ricca. It was Cardinal Daneels who appeared on the balcony in St. Peter's Square when Pope Francis was introduced to the public as pope. Think about that. A man caught on tape blaming a victim of sexual abuse for what happened and telling him that he needed to apologize to his bishop abuser was the first person Pope Francis appeared in public with.

Anyone who thinks Francis will lead a real reform or willingly disclose the truth about the sexual abuse of minors is deceived. He is corrupt himself and will seek to hide his malfeance and that of his supporters.

That's why Cardinal Wuerl is still administrator of DC, in spite of his covering for McCarrick. The resignation was only a fig leaf to quiet the media. Wuerl still sat on the committee that shot down the US bishops' statement on investigating McCarrick at their October meeting. How does somebody involved int he cover-up of McCarrick sit on any committee which has a say over how the USCCB will investigate accusations against bishops like McCarrick? The whole truth will never come out as long as Francis and his cronies run the Vatican; at least not without them fighting it.

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