FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Pope Sympathizes More with Bishops, Less with Victims

The head of the largest religion on earth understands the importance of first impressions. But you couldn’t tell that by his initial remarks the other day when he set foot in the US for the first time ever.

When elected pope, Francis made a spectacular first impression. He asked the crowd in St. Peter’s Square to bless him. (It’s usually the other way around.) The next day, he paid his own hotel bill and carried his own suitcaseAnd he continued in this humble, self-effacing way and so won the hearts of millions.

But last week, when he set foot in the US for the first time, his first impression was less successful.

Twice in two days, Pope Francis has made vague and brief references to the on-going abuse and cover up crisis, mentioning the pain of church staff but not the pain of abused children and betrayed parishioners. He refused to even call the scandal by its name.

In Washington DC, to bishops, the pontiff made virtually no mention of victims, offered no apology, praised US bishops being “courageous” and “generous” in the handling of the crisis.

Then, in New York, to priests and nuns, Francis said “You suffered greatly in the not distant past by having to bear the shame of some of your brothers who harmed and scandalized the Church in the most vulnerable of her members.”

He also called the intractable scandal “difficult moments” (not a decades-old crisis that has no end in sight).

A day later, the Washington Post reported that Francis’ top public relations aide “was asked why the pope had spoken twice now about the abuse crisis, but never named it explicitly and focused on encouraging the clergy without speaking first about victims.”

And the New York Times noted the same troubling pattern – talking about how clergy child sex crimes and cover ups impact other clergy, not children or church-goers.

But Francis has made similar disturbing comments about the crisis before, claiming last year that “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have moved with transparency and accountability” on abuse “Yet the Church is the only one to be attacked.”

An innovator in other ways, this pope is a throwback on sexual violence. He talks and acts like the church hierarchy is the real victim in this crisis.

He seems humble and preaches “service” but like so many other clerics, Francis seems to put church officials above the rest of us.

Shortly into his papacy, Francis criticized “self-referential” church officials. But he seems to be falling prey to this temptation himself.

We in SNAP have long sought better papal actions more than better papal words. We still do. But this degree of insensitivity is hurtful. It deters victims, witnesses and whistleblowers from reporting child sex crimes, known and suspected. When in 2015, even this pope minimizes and mischaracterizes this crisis – calling it “difficult moments” for instance – where’s even the hope, much less the evidence, of change? Why bother speaking up if even Francis sees the scandal only through the eyes of clerics?

Later, as expected, he met with a tiny group of carefully-chosen victims in a carefully-choreographed setting. He softened and re-directed his words and ameliorated some of the harm he’d caused earlier in the week.

In the future, Francis will no doubt work harder to convey compassion. But last week, he dug a deeper hole for himself by these depressing, misguided remarks.

Barbara Dorris of St. Louis is the outreach director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. She can be reached at bdorris@SNAPnetwork.org.

 

More articles by:

Barbara Dorris of St. Louis is the outreach director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. She can be reached at bdorris@SNAPnetwork.org.

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
David Yearsley
Bass on Top: the Genius of Paul Chambers
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail