25 January 2017, The Tablet

Papal fallibility: Is Pope Francis unable or unwilling to take decisive action against priests who abuse children?


A new book has reinforced persistent criticism that Pope Francis is unwilling or unable to take decisive action against priests who abuse children. Some claim he has a blind spot on the issue, others that he is frustrated by resistance within the Vatican

Francis has boosted the image of Catholicism around the world. Opinion polls repeatedly show that the Pope has won the hearts and minds not just of Catholics but of other Christians and people of other religions or none. Yet some argue he has a blind spot. His usual sure-footedness seems lacking when it comes to dealing with the greatest scandal to have hit the Church since the Reformation.

His judgement in certain individual cases seems baffling. He appointed the Chilean Bishop Juan Barros two years ago despite claims that Barros had covered up abuse; he softened a sentence against the abusive Italian priest Mauro Inzoli; and he is accused of doing little for those abused by a priest at a school for the deaf in Argentina after they wrote to him to ask for help. Then there is the British abuse survivor Peter Saunders, appointed to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Last year, he took “leave of absence” in apparent frustration over the slow pace of change. It all prompts the question, on the abuse of children by Catholic priests and the systematic cover-up of the scandal by the Church for decades: does Francis “get it”?

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