Today, the group Bishop Accountability has just uploaded to its website an important new document examining Pope Francis's record on abuse cases in Argentina, when he was (as Cardinal Bergoglio) archbishop of Buenos Aires. The news this document summarizes is not promising for those hoping that Francis will proactively address the abuse crisis in the Catholic church now that he is pope.
As an emailed press release about the new document sent out by Anne Barrett Doyle of Bishop Accountability today states,
The new analysis raises sobering questions about the pope's forthrightness and commitment to child protection. It reveals that then-Cardinal Bergoglio, Argentina's most powerful Catholic leader, chose not to meet with victims, sided with a convicted child molester, and released no information about sex abuse cases in the Buenos Aires archdiocese. He even said that he had never dealt with an abusive priest.
This new addition to the Bishop Accountability site also includes the first public database of accused Argentine clerics, with exhaustively documented summaries of cases against 42 priests and brothers--a "fraction of the actual number of accused Argentine clerics," according to researchers cited by Bishop Accountability, which notes that Argentina has the tenth largest Catholic population in the world, but appears to have fewer than half the accused priests of the diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, and a twentieth of the number of accused clerics in the much smaller nation of the Netherlands, the bishops' conference has enumerated some 800 accused clerics.
The analysis of Bishop Accountability highlights five cases in Argentina in which there are serious questions about Cardinal Bergoglio's transparency and compassion for victims. As the Bishop Accountability media release states,
Buenos Aires archbishop from 1998 to 2013 and president of the Argentine Episcopal Conference from 2005 to 2011, years when bishops in Europe and North America were issuing apologies, meeting with victims, and disclosing numbers and names of abusive clergy, Cardinal Bergoglio appears to have expressed no public support for victims and, according to his spokesperson at the time, did not meet with them. Yet this was the period when Pope John Paul II ordered all bishops, including Cardinal Bergoglio, to send all abuse cases to the Vatican, and when Pope Benedict met with many victims, beginning with his visit to the U.S. in 2008.
The press release also notes that Argentine bishops have continued Cardinal Bergoglio's strategy of minimization right to the present, and are among the least transparent bishops in the worldwide church. As it states,
They have released no documents, no names of accused priests, not even tallies of accused. As of March 11, 2014, the Argentine bishops' conference still had not published the abuse-response policy that it was supposed to finalize and submit to the Vatican by May 2012. Such policies have been posted by bishops' conferences in Brazil, Chile, and Colombia, as well as those in the US, Canada, Australia, and most of Europe.
As many folks have been saying, the proof of the pudding of this papacy, with its plans for institutional reform, will lie in what Francis chooses to do about the abuse crisis. Up to now, he has done . . . nothing. Nothing at all.
Bishop Accountability's document may explain why that's the case.