Pope Francis waited nearly 16 months after his election to lead the Roman Catholic Church to meet with six victims of sexual abuse by priests. Critics are upset he waited so long, but this pope might actually do something.
He met Monday with two victims each from Ireland, Britain and Germany. As The New York Times reported, Francis met with them together and individually after morning Mass in his private chapel.
This is a start, a slow start, but Francis has shown a willingness to act on other topics.
Healing the Catholic Church of this persistent pedophilia requires more than the pope’s expression of sorrow “for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you.” Francis asked forgiveness “for the sins of omission on the part of church leaders who did not respond adequately …” to reports of abuse from families and victims.
Francis also should have begged forgiveness for sins of commission by the church. Decades, if not centuries, where the church actively covered up the hideous assaults by thousands of priest and bishops, who were protected from the law, and moved from parish to parish and diocese to diocese to abuse again, with bureaucratic impunity.
Perhaps only Wall Street executives can match pedophile priests for their capacity to avoid jail time, or any legal accountability. The puny numbers the Vatican offers are more insulting than reassuring.
This hideous, endless scandal is not about theology or the authentic mission of the church. This wretched history is about organizational hubris, social isolation and detachment, fraternal protection, and a sense of sanctimonious privilege above civil law. It’s a use and abuse of authority to protect individuals and the institution regardless of how the innocent suffer.
Sexual predators, who could not pass a screening to coach a youth sports team, engage in grotesque acts during the week, and then stand Sunday as the pathway to the sacred. Shameless.
Pope Francis can and must change things.