Abuse victims angry over Pope’s words

Abuse victims angry over Pope’s words

Pope Francis has been accused of grossly misrepresenting the Catholic Church’s reaction to clerical abuse in the US when he addressed hundreds of bishops at the Cathedral of St Matthew the Apostle in downtown Washington on Wednesday.

According to this report, he told the bishops that he was:

Conscious of the courage with which you have faced difficult moments in the recent history of the church in this country without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice.

He continued:

I realize how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you, and I have supported your generous commitment to bring healing to victims – in the knowledge that in healing we too are healed – and to work to ensure that such crimes will never be repeated.

John Salveson, a 59-year-old Philadelphia businessman who was abused as a child by a priest, said:

The people he was talking to are the people who moved the pedophiles around to prey on kids. If you gave me 100 years to pick a word to describe the US bishops’ reaction to this crisis, ‘generous’ would never make the list.

Terry McKiernan, who runs, a non-profit group that tracks the abuse scandal, said Francis failed to acknowledge that most dioceses across the country have not disclosed the names of abusers and continue to lobby against reforming statute of limitations laws that shield priests from prosecution for crimes committed many years ago.

It would be a shame if the Pope’s words were taken as encouragement by the bishops to continue that behavior.

The National Catholic Reporter, which has been a strong supporter of the Pope on many issues, has consistently challenged him to do more in punishing and preventing sexual abuse. Its editor, Dennis Coday, wrote in an editorial on Wednesday:

I have to wonder where is the forthrightness we have come to expect of Pope Francis. At the very least he could have used the words ‘clergy sexual abuse of minors’.

This oblique reference will do nothing to assuage the fears of victims’ advocates who believe Francis is more public relations manager than crisis manager when it comes to sexual abuse.

Praising the bishops for the courage they have shown before acknowledging the pain of the victims, will undoubtedly raise the charges of ‘he just doesn’t get it’.

According to, at least 6,400 US priests have been accused of abuse, but only about 4,000 of those have been named. Dioceses across the US have paid out more than $3 billion in settlements.

The Los Angeles Archdiocese agreed in 2007 to pay more than 500 abuse victims $660 million. Later settlements pushed the archdiocese’s tab to more than $740 million.

While California and some other states have made it easier to file criminal and civil lawsuits against clergy members, others, such as Pennsylvania, have rejected such proposals under heavy pressure from the church.

David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that he had been hopeful that Francis’ leadership would signal a change in how the church handled the scandal. But a year into the papacy, Clohessy gave up on that hope.

There’s nothing he could say that would be helpful, because Catholic bishops have said it all before – ‘I’m sorry, we didn’t know, we’ll do better’. We’ve heard that for decades.

This is a Pope who has refused to take steps to expose one predator or punish one enabler. He could simply defrock, demote, discipline, or even clearly denounce just one complicit bishop. He refuses, not one.

17 responses to “Abuse victims angry over Pope’s words”

  1. Broga says:

    What else could have been expected? The Pope makes some positive noises about abstract issues but when it comes to specifically criticising and holding to account his bishops he fails.

    All the PR that he has been surrounded by cannot hide his lack of courage on this issue. He has, like his predecessors, sacrificed the needs of children in favour of supporting his thousands of paedophile priests.

  2. jay says:

    ” The Pope makes some positive noises about abstract issues but when it comes to specifically criticising and holding to account his bishops he fails.”

    While he had plenty to say about how things are done in the US (including race relations), he said absolutely NOTHING about human rights while in Cuba.

  3. sailor1031 says:

    This pope is all about PR and window dressing and nothing about any effective action. If he was even remotely serious about the child rape situation here in the USA he would have, on his first day in office, sent that meretricious bastard Bernard Law back to Boston.

    I try not to pay attention to this capo di tutti capi but the media coverage of the state visit of this “humble man” is enough to make the strongest stomach heave. As the leader of the world’s biggest, by far, organized crime syndicate this cebaceous creature should be in prison not making a triumphal tour to celebrate his non-achievements.

    It’s easy for him to whinge about poverty and injustice of all kinds but he has yet to suggest even one solution. We can all identify the problems – it’s solving them that is the hard part and pope fluffy is no help. He’s at best a major irritant, at worst a major cause.

  4. barriejohn says:

    Pope Francis = So, epic PR fan!

  5. Laura Roberts says:

    This is why I call him “Pope Photo-Op”. It grieves me to see friends and family who are nominally religious (but utterly and wilfully ignorant of the Catholic church’s expansive history of human rights abuses) praise this crass opportunist as if he had done something of merit.

    For a dose of sanity I return again to words attributed to Diderot: “Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” A good start would be to use Frankie’s entrails to strangle Salman of Saudi Arabia.

  6. Stephen Mynett says:

    Laura, you have a good party game there, I am sure there are many novel combinations, personally I would go for Ken Ham being found hanged with Potty Bob’s colon.

  7. L.Long says:

    I have heard or read so many love-fests for the pope that vomiting on my keyboard could result! This dude is NOT anything special. He is the pope of the RCC not its reformer! He has done NOTHING REAL about any BS dogma, such as telling bishops to start encouraging the use of condoms in USA much less in Africa where it is really needed. He has NOT relaxed rules on contraceptives (the rules are mostly ignored anyway) or abortions or heathens are going to hell. It is the same old RCC with a slight concession to science (climate change) because unlike the rePUKEians and big oil, the pope aint totally blinded by big profits.

  8. Barry Duke says:

    Broga, someone’s latched onto the cost implications of Frankie’s visit. But there’s an upside to his US visit.

  9. So What! says:

    Q – What is the difference between this pope and Ratzinger.

    A – Ratzinger looked evil and was evil. Francis looks like your harmless favourite buffoon uncle but is just as evil as Ratzinger.

  10. Broga says:

    Thanks Barry. These visits usually pass as if the just happened with costs. We in the UK were screwed over a Pope’s visit (was it Ratty?) and he left with debts which have not been paid nor pursued for payment. The royal visits cost the council tax payers. I recall Cardiff refusing the “honour” of a visit by Charles because it cost too much.

    I think I would prefer Trump, wig and all, to the Pope.

  11. jay says:

    Gushing headline in the NY Times about his visiting Harlem and the ‘extremes’ of wealth and poverty–this from a man with more wealth than anyone in Harlem and flying in the US PRESIDENT’S PERSONAL HELICOPTER (WTF?).

    The grovelling is absoutely disgusting

  12. Stuart H. says:

    I also notice that this pope still hasn’t apologised for his vital role in the Argentinian Junta.
    It’s a matter of public record that when an international human rights body came to investigate ‘the disappeared’ he very kindly offered to help the government out of an embarrassing situation by accepting a number of them as (very reluctant) ‘guests’ at his country hideaway.

  13. andym says:

    Seems I’m not the only one who thinks the PR industry’s loss was the Vatican’s gain. Even Ratzinger had the sense to cry a few crocodile tears over the abuse victims, But this one just doesn’t seem to get it.

    Either that, or he is cannier, hoping it will still go away by saying as little as possible about the cover-up.

  14. lucy1 says:

    I listened to the news on Radio 4. Had two moments of rage. First was the awful sycophantic change of tone that happened when the newsreader said ‘Pope Francis…’ all sugar and deference.

    (the other was when he referred to Mecca as ‘the holy city of Mecca’, but that is OT)

  15. Robster says:

    Can anyone be surprised that pope Frank, an adult 78 year old who really believes he’s munching on vitamin J for Jesus and gurgling the long dead deities blood has had nothing of value to say about his organisation’s crimes? The man is a silly fool prepared to believe and promote complete nonsense. He should really be locked away in a padded cell, settled down by non stop Barry Manilow songs on high rotation while under constant surveillance.

  16. dennis says:

    I hope the pope can feel the love from us here. Not!
    I was watching free speech tv “Tom Hartman Show” one of his callers called in and said he was atheistic but after hearing the pope he was becoming catholic. after all the over kill of him on my tv this week and still have to go through Philadelphia today this man totally bombed my fact reasoned science life, so much more depressing than the pr pope.