The Party’s Over

The reviews are in, and they’re not good. The NY Times has a favorable headline: “Pope Francis Ends Landmark Meeting by Calling for ‘All-Out Battle’ to Fight Sexual Abuse.” But the opening sentence says, “his speech did not offer concrete policy remedies demanded by many of the faithful” – and promised by Pope Francis on opening day of the summit. More to the point, Reuters said “Pope declares war on sexual abuse but victims feel let down.”

NCR, perhaps the best Catholic newspaper, said: “Francis ends Vatican summit with promise church will 'decisively confront' abuse.” They basically repeated Vatican talking points for the first half of the article, until reporting: “Abuse survivors and advocates quickly criticized Francis' closing address as being short on specifics for how the church would combat sexual abuse.” The remaining coverage was at best guarded.

Surprisingly, the star of the show – or at least the post-show commentary- was Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability.org. Everyone quoted her. Apparently, she spoke the words on everyone’s mind. She called the summit “a stunning letdown.” Reuters provided further details: “As the world’s Catholics cry out for concrete change, the Pope instead provides tepid promises, all of which we’ve heard before. Especially distressing was the pope’s familiar rationalization that abuse happens in all sectors of society ... We needed him to offer a bold and decisive plan. He gave us instead defensive, recycled rhetoric.”

While Pope Francis opened the summit with promises of concrete proposals, the only product of the summit – to be delivered shortly- will be “a ‘guidebook’ to ‘help bishops around the world clearly understand their duties’ and set up teams of expert to be sent to countries to help inexperienced bishops handle cases of abuse” (Reuters). This will not be the concrete proposals promised by Pope Francis.

Actions Speak Louder than Words

Recall that Pope Francis was asked to endorse the 2007 Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse at this Summit. This bill was approved by the 47 nations of the Council of Europe, including the 28 members of the European Union. Its concrete regulations reflect common decency. Pope Francis, despite all his pious outcries, failed to sign.

As far as I can tell, no one has claimed the summit was a major step towards solving the Church’s abuse problem. Cardinal DiNardo, the leading bishop in the U.S., said the summit was “better than expected” – very faint praise, indeed.

I get the impression people are fed up with all the Vatican’s empty promises. I think the days of the Church getting carte blanche are over. I suspect that major media and most other institutions will still tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. But after promising “the check is in the mail” for the last six years, let me suggest that Pope Francis no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt. He should be held accountable and pressured until he makes real progress towards fixing this atrocity.

Postscript- The lyrics to “The Party’s Over”

The party's over
It's time to call it a day
They've burst your pretty balloon
And taken the moon away
It's time to wind up the masquerade
Just make your mind up the piper must be paid

The party's over
The candles flicker and dim
You danced and dreamed through the night
It seemed to be right just being with him
Now you must wake up, all dreams must end
Take off your makeup, the party's over
It's all over, my friend

The party's over
It's time to call it a day
Now you must wake up, all dreams must end
Take off your makeup, the party's over
It's all over, my friend

It's all over, my friend

 

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