Why does the Catholic Church have so much trouble getting people to believe they’ve taken serious steps to curb the rampant sexual abuse of children? Maybe it’s because of what Pope Francis did this morning.
In a speech he gave yesterday in Chile — alongside the nation’s atheist President Michelle Bachelet, no less — he acted like he was seriously bothered by all the abuse. He said all the right things. He promised to “take steps” to prevent the crimes from occurring again in the future. All of that is part of the Catholic Church playbook at this point:
Pope Francis said on Tuesday that he was “pained and ashamed” over the “irreparable damage” priests had inflicted on minors, as he offered Chileans an apology during his first visit to their country as pontiff.
“It is just to ask for forgiveness and to support victims with as much strength as possible, even as we take steps to ensure that this never happens again,” the pope said during an address in Santiago, Chile’s capital, attended by President Michelle Bachelet.
He might have been okay, at least rhetorically, had he stopped there.
But check out what he did later that day.
After leaving the presidential palace, Francis celebrated Mass in Santiago alongside Bishop Juan Barros Madrid of Osorno, a city in southern Chile. Bishop Barros has been accused of protecting the Rev. Fernando Karadima, a former priest who was defrocked by the Vatican for abusing teenagers during the 1980s and 1990s.
The pope has been criticized for elevating Father Barros to bishop in 2015 despite being aware of the allegations against him.
That’s like a group of doctors celebrating their new healthy eating initiative by going to McDonald’s.
If the Catholic leadership really took protecting children seriously, they would kick out every priest accused of being a predator as well as anyone who may have covered up such abuse (at least until the issues could be investigated and resolved). At the very least, for the sake of optics, don’t hang out with them.
At least Chileans didn’t fall for it. A number of them told reporters that the pope’s hollow words and the complicity of Church leadership was why they were no longer Catholics.
“That is such a terrible sign and an incoherent signal to survivors,” [abuse victim Juan Carlos Cruz] said, calling it “the reason Chile has lost so much faith in the hierarchy and we have become a much less Catholic country.”
Cruz and his fellow citizens are better off without corrupt Catholicism. What we need are more people like him calling out the Church’s bad behavior instead of more speeches by a pope who loves to talk a good game but refuses to follow through with the sort of actions that would back it up.
(Screenshot via YouTube)