A selection of responses to Pope Francis's anniversary remarks about the abuse crisis and the Catholic church:
Father Tom Doyle, National Catholic Reporter:
In his interview with Corriere della Sera Wednesday, Francis sounds like he is reading from a script that should have been abandoned years ago: "The Catholic church is maybe the only public institution to have moved with transparency and responsibility … No one else has done more. Yet the church is the only one to be attacked." Unfortunately Holy Father, the Catholic church has not moved with transparency and responsibility. It has done just the opposite. Whoever prepared the pope’s briefing papers on the sex abuse issue ought to be fired.
Mollie Wilson O'Reilly, Commonweal:
Francis is not the first defender of the church to speak as though it's obvious that sexual abuse is rampant in any organization you can name, and we just don't hear about it because the media hates the Church. There have been revelations of abuse and cover-up in other institutions: scouting, private schools, Hasidic communities. But it isn't just distorted perspective that makes the church's sex-abuse problems stand out: it's the scale of the abuse and the mishandled response, the persistence of the problem, and the lack of transparency and responsibility that has made the church's scandal such a mainstay in the media for so long. Then, too, there's the fact that the church is a church, which ups the conscience-shocking factor. And it's a church with a very strong, very visible authority structure, so when leaders commit crimes -- or fail to admit mistakes -- it reflects badly on everyone and everything.
Terence McKiernan, Bishop Accountability:
By the end of the Pope's remarks, the Church itself has become the victim: "No one else has done more. Yet the Church is the only one to be attacked." It is astonishing, at this late date, that Pope Francis would recycle such tired and defensive rhetoric, apparently blaming the survivors and the journalists who have informed us about these crimes. What little transparency and accountability the Church has shown, has been compelled by survivors, journalists, advocates, and activists. Pope Francis, who is famous for his humility, should have acknowledged this crucial contribution.
Hearing the Pope use the abuse-occurs-elsewhere excuse is truly disheartening. We hope he was referring only to the recent U.N. criticism when he made these comments because much work remains to be done. We hope that the work of his commission on clergy sexual abuse will produce true steps toward healing and reform and the fulfillment of Francis' obvious commitment to mercy and compassion towards all the suffering in the world.
Editorial, National Catholic Reporter:
The church has done probably more than any other institution to institute norms and procedures for preventing abuse in the future. But the other side of that truth is that for decades, church leaders denied that there was any problem, they lied about the numbers of people involved and fought, at enormous expense, disclosure of the dimensions of the problem. Not one of them has yet been held to account. Today there are bishops in place who have betrayed their own conferences’ directions on how to handle abuse cases. If the church is doing more now than any other institution to protect children it is only because of enormous public pressure brought about by victims and others within the church demanding the truth. And the record shows that church leaders can be less than diligent in applying the new standards.
Kristine Ward, National Survivor Advocates Coalition:
When a blind spot becomes the full windshield through which the road is seen, when the elephant in the room is given permanent residence, when the third papacy since the Boston incarnation of the scandal’s revelations decides that the status quo will be the status, then style has triumphed substance and we have all arrived back where we began – in the same ongoing crucifixion of innocence.
And Father Tom Doyle again (see the first link above):
When the U.N. released its blistering critic of the Holy See's culpability in the sex abuse crisis, the Vatican reacted with its customary narrow-minded arrogance, accusing the U.N. panel of not understanding how the church works and of interfering with sacred doctrinal issues. Part of the sting in the report was precisely that the committee did understand how the Vatican system works and didn’t fall for the smokescreen that it is only responsible for the territory of Vatican City. As far as the doctrinal issues are concerned, those brought up in the report all have direct bearing on the plague of sexual abuse perpetrated by clerics and covered by the leadership. The pope probably saw the report or at least parts of it. That report and the victims who testified before the U.N. commission in Geneva should constitute the mandate and membership of the promised commission, not bishops and cardinals who have been part of the problem and can hardly be part of the solution.