Last week, I wrote about the extremely disturbing, and historically unprecedented, 900+ page grand jury report released that covered six dioceses in Pennsylvania. More than 300 priests and other church staff abused over a thousand children (and likely thousands more not covered in the report) over a period of several decades.
In addition to those priests who actually committed these horrendous crimes against children, the report also included details of bishops and cardinals in the church hierarchy that knew of the crimes and used "a series of practices that regularly appeared, in various configurations, in the diocesan files." It was like the church had "a playbook for concealing the truth."
In the wake of the report's release on Tuesday, the Vatican declined to comment on Wednesday and Thursday. Outrage grew among Catholics and non-Catholics alike, as the Vatican, and Pope Francis, remained silent. After all, it is important to remember that the Vatican should have been prepared for this report. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro wrote a letter to Pope Francis regarding the report on July 25th, almost 3 full weeks before it was released. The six dioceses captured in the report were also given advanced copies before it was made public.
So the Vatican was not blindsided by this report's release. They could have at least said something.
Finally, today, Pope Francis released a 2,000-word letter commenting on the situation. You can read the full letter here.
The pope's letter, addressed "To the People of God," opens with a quote of 1 Corinthians 12:26. "If one member suffers, all suffer together with it," the verse reads. Personally, I find it offensive that Pope Francis would dare open his letter this way. Those priests, bishops, and cardinals were not suffering. The children were suffering, but the clergy continued the abuse for decades and all they cared about was protecting themselves and the church. That is not suffering, it is heartless cowardice and self-preservation.
"Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated," Francis writes about what must be done.
Later in the letter Francis admits that "we showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them." He also writes, "It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others," and again later Francis adds, "Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils."
Pope Francis ends the letter with, "May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them."
I want to point out something very important here. Pope Francis makes a big show in this letter lamenting the suffering of children, and the suffering that the entire congregation feels when one member suffers. He says that "no effort must be spared" by the church to prevent this from happening again.
But when you really read the letter. He gives nothing concrete. No plans, no actual means of change. All he offers is "penance and prayer." Penance and prayer is supposed to fix this? The Holy Spirit just going to grant the church "the grace of conversion" (whatever that is) in the face of these horrifying crimes against children and then *poof* sprinkle that magic holy water and say some Latin words and it will all go away.
Because that has worked before...
In his letter, Francis remarks on the Pennsylvania grand jury report, but he fails to directly address the many other scandals involving the church elsewhere in the world. In places like Australia and Latin America, for example, the church has seen more scandals in recent years. Francis is visiting Ireland, where the once staunchly faithful country has been rapidly becoming more secular in the last few years.
In Ireland and beyond, the Catholic Church has been hemorrhaging members, and more than 25% of those who leave cite the ongoing sex-abuse scandals as one of the reasons they left.
It is time for this medieval criminal enterprise to finally be put out of our misery. Hopefully people will realize what a mistake it is to support them and deprive them of their base.