Columnists > The Holy Father has allowed abusers to remain in the priesthood

09 March 2017 | by Richard Leonard

The Holy Father has allowed abusers to remain in the priesthood


Well, I am now officially confused. Maybe it has to do with the searing experience in recent weeks of reading transcripts of the Australian Royal Commission’s investigation into the Church’s response to clerical sexual abuse. Maybe it’s because what survivors and their families have learned during these hearings has retraumatised some of them and has left the rest of us shocked, ashamed, angry and grieving. And maybe it’s because I had such high hopes for Pope Francis’ leadership in regard to child protection issues.

I am thoroughly flummoxed by the news that on more than one occasion Pope Francis has relaxed the penalties imposed on priests found guilty of the sexual abuse of children, allowing them to remain in the ministry. It adds insult to injury to learn how this decision was justified. While, as a spokesman put it, “he understands that many victims and survivors can find any sign of mercy in this area difficult”, Pope Francis “knows that the Gospel message of mercy is ultimately a source of powerful healing and of grace … even for those who are guilty of heinous crimes”.

What has happened to Pope Francis since he met survivors of sexual abuse at the Vatican on 7 July 2014? “Some priests and bishops, by sexually abusing minors, violated their innocence and their own priestly vocation … I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness …


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