Pope Francis Summons Bishops to Fight Child Abuse

All major newspapers have front-page headlines about Pope Francis convening his forces. The N.Y. Times: “Pope Calls World’s Bishops to Meeting on Sexual Abuse of Children.” Fox news: “Pope Francis to summon bishops to Vatican as Catholic Church battles sex abuse, cover-up claims.” More straightforwardly, the National Catholic Reporter (NCR): “Francis to meet US bishops about McCarrick, abuse scandals Sept. 13.” Despite the wide range of newspapers, their coverage is remarkably similar, especially in what they choose to omit.

As you might expect, the NY Times has the most complete coverage, especially in its historical background to the story:

The February meetings that Francis has called are intended to put the issue front and center again. For decades, abuse festered in the papacy of John Paul II, as many in the Vatican ignored accusations, which was portrayed as a problem of English-speaking countries fueled by anti-Catholic news outlets.

 

As the sexual abuse crisis came into open view in 2002, it forced the Vatican to acknowledge an issue that had threatened its credibility around the world. Under John Paul, Benedict served as the prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the church’s doctrinal watchdog, and personally read many of the files about clerical abuse. As pope, he cracked down on hundreds of priests.

 

But there were high hopes after the election of Francis in 2013 that he would tackle the systemic problem of abuse in the church by holding accountable the bishops who often covered it up. Francis has ordered the resignations of several bishops, but he has failed to create a promised tribunal for holding negligent bishops accountable for covering up sexual crimes.

Note that their history started with Pope John Paul, who caused the problem to “fester” for decades. The Times, in keeping with a recent Vatican meme, said the crisis became “open” in 2002, following the Spotlight investigation in Boston. According to Richard Sipe, Spotlight’s expert consultant, the Catholic Church in the U.S. paid over $1 billion to abuse victims before the Boston scandal broke. The scandal first broke in Louisiana, nearly 20 years before Boston. The Times correctly notes that Pope Francis’ early promises went unfulfilled, but says nothing about his efforts at stonewalling.

Fox News only mentioned recent scandals under Pope Francis. It said nothing of Francis’ early promises, much less the history of the abuse scandals. Fox even failed to mention the recent grand jury report which transformed the festering scandal to an uproar.

NCR did a better job of covering recent events, but largely omitted the background of the scandal. Their historical commentary: “The announcement sets the stage for a kind of high-profile encounter not seen since April 2002, when eight U.S. cardinals were summoned to Rome to discuss revelations of abuse with Pope John Paul II.”

The gorilla they are ignoring

While the NY Times acknowledges the “high hopes” when Pope Francis took office, they failed to mention that this was because of the large promises he made at the time. Pope Francis created a special commission on child abuse to study the problem and propose remedies.

More than five years later, the commission has produced nothing of any real value. Its most notable result was the resignation of two members who protested its failure to do anything - the only members of the commission qho were former victims. One of them, Marie Collins, disclosed that the commission was never given any resources. They didn’t even have enough money to meet for discussions. Nor were they given access to a canon lawyer, an obvious prerequisite to any reform proposals. Pope Francis met with Marie Collins and promised changes. More than a year later, he has done nothing.

This scandal has been going on for about 35 years. The problem has been known for well over a millennium. Pope Francis has been making empty promises for over five years. None of the media is willing to hold him accountable. In fact, they won’t even mention the problem.

 

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