Friday, March 28, 2014

Pope Francis’ new sexual abuse committee: effective or the same old story?

Pope Francis has appointed a committee to study the clerical sexual abuse problem. He did this after being criticized by advocacy groups for abuse victims when he strongly defended the Roman Catholic Church’s handling of the sexual abuse crisis and after the United Nations commission issued a stinging report on the church’s handling of abuse cases.

Do we really need another study committee? The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a group founded in the United States that has now become international, said the committee “perpetuates the self-serving myth that Catholic officials need more information about abuse and cover-ups.” SNAP added: “They don’t. They need courage. They know what’s right already.” We can’t trust the church to do what is right because of their past actions.

In 2002 after the Boston Globe ran a series on pedophile priests, cover up of their crimes and relocation by cardinal Bernard Law, the church paid for a 1.8 billion dollar study. The study found that 4,392 priests in America had abused more than 10,000 children over the previous 52 years. Considering that the church sponsored the study, that the data came from bishops' responses to surveys, and that they would not give the study consultants access to church files, these numbers greatly underestimated the number of abused children.

Did the church do anything with the results? As usual they “passed the buck” saying that “Priests preyed upon children because the sexual turmoil of the 1960s and '70s put priests unprepared for the cultural shift under stress." They were saying that it wasn’t any fault of the church or the child rapists – that society made them do it. While cardinal Law resigned, he was rewarded with a job in Rome as the head of a major church. Victims of abuse and their advocates say that Law was never held responsible for his role. The pope and the college of cardinals already know who the perpetrators are – why don’t they just turn them over to the police?

Colm O’Gorman, who is the founder and former director of the advocacy group One in Four in Ireland, said, “What matters most now is what is the purpose of the commission, what are its terms of reference and what are its powers? Because too often we’ve seen commissions, in the U.S., in Ireland and in other parts of the world like Australia that ultimately run into sand and accomplish little”.

Pope Francis himself has a history of ignoring reports of clergy abuse. An article in The Tablet, the International Catholic News Weekly accused Pope Francis of failing to take appropriate action in a number of known cases of clerical child abuse while he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

According to, a group documenting child abuse by the catholic church, the cases all came to the future Pope Francis (Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s) attention, but he either defended the perpetrators or would not meet with the victims. In one case five girls were abused by a priest, Mario Napoleon Sasso in a community soup kitchen. The bishop of the diocese covered up the crime and Cardinal Bergolio failed to respond when the families of the young girls asked to meet him.

Another priest, Ruben Pardo, told his bishop that he had sexually assaulted a boy. He was then found by police at the home of the auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires. It is unlikely that Pardo was able to live and preach in the diocese without the approval of Cardinal Bergoglio.

According to BishopAccountability, Bergoglio’s actions in these cases show a failure on the part of the now Pope to actively stamp out child abuse. Will he change his tactics now? I hope he doesn’t procrastinate while children around the world are still subject to attacks by rapist priests.