This is an extract from Robert Mickens’ ‘Letter from Rome’ of 10 February 2016, published in Global Pulse. In the full article, Mickens refers to the extraordinary success and acceptance of Pope Francis in so many areas. There is however a downside. Mickens coments:
But there is a dense cloud hanging over all the good this prophetic priest and bishop has done for the Church. It is a pall that is casting an ever darkening shadow on his otherwise energizing pontificate.
The black spot is – how can one put it? – the pope’s seemingly ambivalent attitude and approach towards dealing with clergy sexual abuse of youngsters.
Just to be clear. Francis ticks the boxes favorably in over 80% of the categories where a pope can make a difference. But there are some areas – and the sex abuse issue is probably the most painful – where he doesn’t seem to get it.
And that is a real tragedy.
Thankfully, Vatican apologists are no longer making the ridiculous claim that the sexual abuse crisis (let’s call it what it is, a worldwide pandemic) is a priority for the pope.
Even the apologists need to look themselves in the mirror and admit that it is not.
If it were, the pope would have at least made time to meet with the 17-member Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors that gathered last weekend in the Vatican. This is a body Francis instituted in 2014, but only after he was shamed into doing so by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, a member of his privy council (C9) and the US Church’s sex abuse trouble-shooter.
But the Jesuit Pope seemingly had more important things on his agenda, like addressing devotees of the mysterious and still-controversial St Padre Pio, one of two Capuchin saints whose fully clothed corpses were brought to Rome last week and paraded through St Peter’s Square in glass boxes.
Francis was also unavailable to see “Spotlight”, the recent film on the Boston Globe’s investigative reporting that helped bring clergy sexual abuse to light.
The filmmakers offered a private screening for members of the Vatican’s child protection commission (the flick is not out yet in Italy) but only five of the seventeen bothered to show up.
One of them was Peter Saunders, a Brit who was sexually abused by a priest when he was a boy. The other members then voted Mr Saunders off the commission because, in their view, he’d rather be an advocate for the victims than an advisor to the pope.
Obviously, Francis is not the only one who doesn’t get it.