Pope Francis’ acknowledgment of sexual abuse was a letdown


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Pope Francis has always been a favorite of many, but this event has changed some’s opinions on him.

By Maria Peralta, Middle College High School @ Santa Ana College

On Sunday, February 24, Pope Francis concluded a landmark meeting where he brought attention to the rampant sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. Prior to this, he had began to strip abusers of their titles. With this in mind, this meeting seemed like a step in the right direction.

So, how did it go?

It was a complete and utter letdown. In his closing remarks, Pope Francis acknowledged the issue, but he failed to address it head-on. Whimsical language and metaphors lightened the true impact and seriousness this issue had. His plans to fix it are highly vague, focusing more on the “Why?” instead of the “How?” Obviously, his concerns come from the heart, yet were still misguided. If you would like to read a transcript of this speech, here is the link.

He spoke about how if any new case emerges, “That case will be faced with the utmost seriousness.” While that is a step in the right direction, what about all the priests accused in the past? For decades, the Catholic church has quietly swept sexual abuse scandals under the rug, failing to report and prosecute the perpetrators. Any files created were immediately destroyed or hidden. What will come of them? Surely, he must know about this, so why weren’t any actions taken against them yet? He refuses to speak about it, much less release the files. A local churchgoer said that he’s “been hearing about these things for years, but nothing ever seemed to be done about them.”

Abusers were called forth to “renew commitment” and “accuse [them]selves” believing that they must “not fall into the trap of blaming others.” Pope Francis later contradicts himself entirely, chalking up the sexual abuse committed to the “spirit of evil,” and “the hand of evil.” Not only is he shifting the blame elsewhere (which he had condemned), he is treating the issue as if it can be solved through giving second chances and prayer. A slap on the wrist won’t fix anything. These men have to be exposed, kicked out of the church and put into prison cells as soon as their crimes are proven, no second chances, no renewed commitment. This was no work of the Devil; they were fully aware of what they were doing.

Not only has he failed to speak about what will happen to these convicted priests, he also failed to elaborate how the church’s credibility will forever be affected by this. Sexual abuse against women, most notably nuns, was also seemingly left out, even though he had acknowledged it in the past. And what about sexual misconduct of priests in other countries? He makes no mention of anything of the sort. In the US alone, 6,721 priests have been accused since 1950, nearly 6% of all priests who have worked since then. Junior Brandon Garcia stated that, “[Pope Francis] shouldn’t try to sugarcoat things when he has the whole world’s attention.”

Pope Francis, you said children need to be protected from these “ravenous wolves.” How can they be protected when you are still protecting them and giving them a platform to abuse them even more? You say you will listen to the victims, but when many of their abusers are still in power, their words will be lost in their selfishness. You think those men are going to want to let what they hear get out and risk losing what they had dedicated their entire life to? This issue is so ingrained into Catholicism; no “change” will happen in eight mere steps. It takes a lot more to destroy a decades, even centuries-old problem.

I am not Catholic or even religious, but if I were, I’d be ashamed to have these sick men representing us. As my deeply Catholic family member said, “They’ve brought shame to us.”

This story was originally published on The Spellbinder on March 14, 2019.