“Even a single case of abuse” must be met “with the utmost seriousness.”
This was pope Francis’ appeal at a Vatican meeting in February 2019. There is much to be said about it, but words are not action. There is much to be said about the lifting of the rule of the pontifical secret as well, but action does mean a change in culture. Throughout this whole matter the most alarming thing has been the lack of leadership and morals of a religion which preaches morality, and which is supposed to lead over a billion catholic men and women. With the revealing of thousands of victims of abuse worldwide, this issue should not be the primary source of alarm, and yet it is. Seventy years ago Father Fitzgerald warned the existing pope of the existence of predators among priests, and since then the Church has done most everything to not confront the issue, and to bury it for as long as possible.
It is clear that some drastic changes need to be made. The solutions will not be easy, nor should they be. Is it stronger regulations? Background checks? Punishment? Or even abolishing priesthood? (as James Carroll proposes(1)). Today Pope Francis must deal with this issue, and the question is can he change the Church? Seven years into this role and only more controversy has arose. Last year, several days before the Vatican meeting on clerical sexual abuse, where he appealed to them with the strong words seen above, he said: “those who spend their lives accusing, accusing, and accusing are – I won’t say children, because the devil doesn’t have any – but they are the friends, cousins and relatives of the devil.”(3) When putting this in relation to all the victims of abuse, it is chilling.
In any case, whether it be with Francis or not, measures and accountability need to be taken, and organizational wide Church mentality needs to change. Should they need any guidance, they had but look at what they preach.