Pope Francis’ forceful leadership needs to address priest abuses

Pope Francis leaves after his weekly general audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018. Pope Francis lamented Wednesday how Irish church authorities failed to respond to the crimes of sexual abuse, speaking during his first public appearance at the Vatican after bombshell accusations that he himself covered up for an American cardinal's misdeeds. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis took precisely the correct attitude in his letter responding to a grand jury investigation of sexual abuse by priests in Pennsylvania. “The missive admitted that too many in the Roman Catholic church “showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”

Since it was released, the grand jurors’ report has made headlines worldwide. It has been the topic of conversation everywhere, including in churches of all denominations.

For decades, more than 300 “predator priests” in the Keystone State were accused credibly of abusing more than 1,000 children, the grand jurors found. Frequently, church superiors — and even law enforcement authorities — shielded the evildoers.

It was not the first evidence of widespread abuses and coverups within the Roman Catholic church. There have been others.

There will be more.

It is sad and disturbing in the extreme to recognize that no locale is immune to sexual abuse of children by those in positions of authority, whether they be civil or religious.

No one can say with conviction that, “It didn’t happen here.”

Pope Francis was right, then, to emphasize two points in his letter. “Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient,” he wrote.

But, he added, repentance must be accompanied by reform. “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.”


Making that happen in all our institutions, not just the Roman Catholic church, will be a painful process.

It simply must be done.

Surely we can agree that no consideration — not protection of important, even revered institutions or of individuals who appear to be serving us — is more important than safeguarding our children.


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