Ever since Pope Francis came into his role as head of the Catholic Church, he has defied expectations and won the hearts and minds of many Catholics and non-Catholics alike. His tolerant and liberal viewpoints on social issues have fueled much speculation that the Catholic Church may be headed in a new direction.
But there is one important issue about which Pope Francis has done little and on which he has said little: Clergy sex abuse. Critics say that like his predecessors, the Pope seems to be “studying” the issue rather than making substantive reforms.
In 2013, the Holy See formed a 17-member advisory committee on clergy sex abuse headed by an American Cardinal. Recently, however, at least five members of the committee have publicly expressed concern over a recent bishop appointment made by Pope Francis.
The bishop, who was recently named head of a diocese in Chile, has been accused of covering up the crimes of a notorious pedophile priest. Three of the priest’s victims have said that the newly appointed bishop even witnessed the abuse personally (decades ago), and that he did nothing to intervene. News reports also say that close to 1,400 Chileans have asked the Pope to rescind the appointment.
In interviews with news agencies, one member of the commission said that the appointment “goes completely against what he (Francis) has said in the past about those who protect abusers. The voice of the survivors is being ignored, the concerns of the people and many clergy in Chile are being ignored and the safety of children in this diocese is being left in the hands of a bishop about whom there are grave concerns for his commitment to child protection.”
Critics of the Catholic Church believe that many of its problems stem from its strict hierarchical structure, lack of accountability and top-down authority. Will the current head of the Catholic Church use his authority to bring about real reform, or will he protect a status quo that has destroyed the lives of countless children? Only time will tell.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Pope Gets Pushback From Sex Abuse Commission On Bishop Juan Barros Appointment,” Nicole Winfield, March 27, 2015