Catholic Sex Abuse: Pope Francis Calls for "Decisive Action" Against Sexually Abusive Priests

You cannot accuse Pope Francis of being afraid to mention the hard issues, at least. On Friday Pope Francis talked about the clerical sexual abuse scandal that has tainted the image the Catholic Church and greatly weakened its respect around the world. In his remarks Pope Francis called for "decisive action" in the battle against clergy who sexually abuse minors.

However, his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI made a similar pronouncement. Upon assuming the office in 2005, he said at a Good Friday mass "How much filth there is in the Church, even among those who, in the priesthood, should belong entirely to Him. How much pride, how much self-sufficiency." Many saw this as a statement on the clergy sexual abuse scandal. The scandal would go on to take up much of his papacy, causing several parishes to declare bankruptcy under the amount of settlements they had to pay out. Pope Benedict would go on to apologize several times with regards to the scandal, but many said that his words rang hollow compared to his actions.

Groups representing the countless victims of the scandal were cool at best to Pope Francis's words. Barbara Doris, from Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said of Pope Francis, "Kids won’t be helped by a 'continuation' of the tiny symbolic gestures taken by Pope Benedict. Kids will be helped by decisive changes. Thus far, Pope Francis hasn’t even discussed, much less adopted, even a single reform."

Pope Francis met with Cardinal Bernard Law back in March, which was heavily criticized by abuse victim advocacy groups. Law had previously stepped down as the Archbishop of Boston after failing to remove several sexually abuse clergy from their positions within his archdiocese. Critics say that Pope Francis meeting with Cardinal Law showed a lack of urgency in fighting the scandal, as Law is seen as the ultimate example of the Church covering up the scandal at the expense of those affected.

However others say that by acknowledging the scandal very directly and early in his papacy, Pope Francis is showing that he is not afraid of confronting the tough decisions that will ensue in dealing with the scandal and its fallout. This shows that he is committed to his policy of reform and renewal.

Was this a brave move by Pope Francis? Or is it window dressing that does not address the real issues? Let us know in the comments below!

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Gabriel Rodriguez

Gabriel Rodriguez is currently studying for a Masters in Applied Economics at Georgetown. He is a graduate of New College of Florida with a degree in Economics. He is interested in econometrics, statistical analysis, behavioral economics, and developmental economics.

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