Since he took on the role some nine months ago, Pope Francis has proven to be exceedingly popular with Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Many believe his leadership will change the face of Catholicism and show it to be kinder, gentler, more inclusive and less judgmental than in the past.
But even supporters of Pope Francis have said that he has so far fallen short on addressing one important issue: child sexual abuse committed by priests. When the Pope recently announced the formation of an advisory commission to help him attack the problem, reactions were mixed. Some have lauded the move while others have criticized it as either inadequate or done mostly for show.
Little is yet known about who will be on the commission, and what power the commission will have (if any) beyond advising Pope Francis. One critic of the recent formation of the commission is the executive director of a group called the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
Commenting on the recent announcement, he said: “A new church panel is the last thing that kids need. Church officials have mountains of information about those who have committed and those who are concealing horrible child sex crimes and cover-ups. They just have to give that information to the police.”
While most believers do not necessarily blame the Catholic Church for sex abuse perpetrated by individual priests, many do blame the Church for its role in covering up cases of abuse and sheltering priests who have been accused of abusing children.
Until or unless this new commission proves otherwise, most critics and abuse survivors will likely remain skeptical of its ability/willingness to enact the necessary changes to prevent clergy sexual abuse. Thankfully, those who have been abused by priests or other religious officials can often pursue justice by filing a civil lawsuit against their abusers.
Source: New York Times, “Pope Setting Up Commission on the Sexual Abuse of Children by Priests,” Elisabetta Povoledo, Alan Cowell and Rick Gladstone, Dec. 5, 2013