Sunday, September 27, 2015

"I have in my heart the stories of suffering and pain of the minors who were sexually abused by priests" (Pope Francis)


"Words cannot fully express my sorrow for the abuse you suffered. I'm profoundly sorry that your innocence was violated by those you trusted."
-- Pope Francis, to a gathering of abuse survivors today, in prepared
remarks as released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

"As with all things related to the Catholic Church, you have to listen to the words and then you have to watch what they do."
-- abuse survivor John Salveson, president of the
Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse

by Ken

Earlier in the pope's visit, the victims of priestly sexual abuse and their defenders complained about his failure to squarely address the issue of the victims and of his uncomfortably consoling message of support to the assembled American bishops. The complaint seemed to me to have merit, and while it was clear that he had a heavy schedule of public appearances still to come during his whirlwind tour of Washington, New York, and Philadelphia, the absence of any comment from Vatican officialdom was hardly encouraging.

Today in Philadelphia the pope returned to the subject. Perhaps not surprisingly, the doubters aren't satisfied.

Here's the start of the report by the Washington Post team covering the papal visit (links onsite).
Pope Francis finally met with sex abuse survivors but more action is critical, activists say

By Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Abby Ohlheiser and Terrence McCoy
September 27 at 5:00 PM

PHILADELPHIA – Pope Francis told U.S. bishops and seminarians on Sunday that he had met with sex abuse survivors. “God weeps,” he said in remarks ahead of a prepared speech on the family.

Five adults who were abused as minors – three women and two men – were at the meeting along with their families, according to the Vatican’s press office. The survivors were abused by clergy, family members, or their teachers.

“I have in my heart, the stories of suffering and pain of the minors who were sexually abused by priests. And, it continues to overwhelm me with shame that the people who were charged with taking care of these tender ones violated that trust and caused them a profound pain. God weeps.” Pope Francis said at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, according to a translation of the Spanish remarks by The Washington Post.

“The crimes and sins of sexual abuse of minors cannot be kept in secret any longer.” he continued.

Pope Francis said he was committed to “a careful vigiliance of the church to ensure that youth are protected, and I promise that all those responsible will be held accountable.”

Survivors in the U.S. have mixed feelings on Pope Francis’s record on the topic since becoming pope, with some praising him, and others seeing his statements and actions as inadequate. Some survivor activists have been urging Pope Francis to substantively address the sex abuse crisis during his visit.

And while he has discussed the topic this week, many of those same groups found his comments lacking because he emphasized supporting the clergy’s reforms, rather than the suffering of victims.

“As with all things related to the Catholic Church, you have to listen to the words and then you have to watch what they do,” said John Salveson, a clergy sex abuse survivor, prominent activist and president of The Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse.

Salveson said the Vatican has been aware of possible solutions “for years, if not decades.” They include releasing the identity of priests who have been defrocked for abusing children; involving civil authorities when there is abuse, particularly in other countries, and extending the statute of limitations on clergy sex abuse, he said.

“The reason this all continued is that these priests don’t get prosecuted and the bishops who hide them don’t get prosecuted because they are protected by the statute of limitations,” he said.

The pope’s outreach is useful to the extent it eases victims’ suffering, said Marie Collins, a member of an advisory commission the pope set up to help him improve the church’s response to abuse.

“If it’s going to help their healing, then it’s a positive experience for them. It’s a very positive experience for them,” said Collins, a clergy abuse survivor from Ireland. But, Collins added, the meeting “really is not connected [to the] work for the future of child protection.”

Instead, she said, the pope’s decision to set up a papal commission advising him on how to handle the issue going forward was “the most positive change to happen” so far.

Robert Hoatson, who held signs in support of victims of abuse in front of Philadelphia’s basilica over the weekend, said on Sunday that he felt the pope’s comments brushed too quickly over the serious issue. “This is getting more bizarre,” said Hoatson, who works with victims. ” It’s going to cause more distress, more traumatization, re-abuse,” he said, “because it seemed like a side note.”

“It was as if he added this to his talk without telling the bishops what he is going to do, including removing some of [the bishops],” Hoatson said.

The meeting happened at the seminary at about 8 a.m., just before Pope Francis’s remarks, according to Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi. The meeting lasted for a half an hour. . . .

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