Pope Francis has had ten years to take sex abuse seriously

My mother used to say that a man will sit in his living room and talk about how to save the world, while his wife is outside with a hammer and nails, fixing the front steps.

Ten years into the Francis papacy and this is how I feel, as a member of the church, and specifically as a woman in the church. We’ve been hearing these living room lectures for a decade now. We’ve heard about openness and going out to the margins and smelling like the sheep and not judging, and we’ve heard about reform.

How are the front steps? Do people take a look at the Catholic Church and think, “How safe and welcoming!”?

When Pope Francis was elected, I was thrilled. The photos and stories that circulated seized my heart and made me feel like something incredible was about to happen. I saw him riding incognito on a bus, refusing to take advantage of his high office to grab a limousine. I saw him washing the feet of Indigenous women comfortably breastfeeding their babies, and no one was freaking out about modesty or decorum or custody of the eyes. I saw him standing, apparently heavy with distress, at the moment of his election, feeling the unwelcome weight of the duty that had been placed on his head, and I thought this spoke well of him, that he wasn’t grasping for power. And I saw him waving cheerily up at a photographer over his car a few months later, and I thought this spoke well of him, too, that he had chosen to make the most of where he was. He seemed to love everybody. He seemed to see people, especially the unseen, especially the overlooked, the wounded. My hopes were especially high for how he would handle the sexual abuse crisis.

I thought: He is going to do great things. He’s going to challenge us all. This is a man who will listen to us, who will cut through the nonsense, who will do things in a way that makes sense, who won’t be flattered, who will stand up for the little ones. Things are finally going to be different this time. I had tearfully, painfully accepted the fact that Benedict and John Paul II had fumbled the sex abuse issue badly. And it looked like Francis would be different.

It has been 10 years. He has done many great things. But he was perfectly poised to make a difference with the sex abuse crisis, and the world was perfectly poised to applaud him if he did. He has squandered his chance… Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine


Photo by Nacho Arteaga on Unsplash

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4 thoughts on “Pope Francis has had ten years to take sex abuse seriously”

  1. A little girl in my class was just horrendously abused by her martial arts instructor. He was an instructor in possibly one of the most exclusive communities in the world.

    We welcomed her back to school today. She can’t fully grasp what just happened to her. She is so fragile and tender. That’s why the creep targeted her.

    They exist everywhere. Everywhere.

    Talk to your children. Don’t be afraid of the body when you speak to them. Creating a false narrative will make them scoff at you later when the world starts to beat them up with (hopefully) just words.

    The problem with good priests and popes is that they sit in the confessional longer than the ones that are living their best lives. They know the truth about even the squeaky clean husbands and fathers, and yes, wives, and mothers.

    If Pope Francis is propping up pedophiles and perverts to stay in their parishes just say so, and please provide documentation so I can share in your disgust.

  2. THIS.

    I know someone who’s a survivor of abuse in the Church who loves Pope Francis. Says so all the time. I haven’t had the heart to have this conversation with her. The case of Rupnik in particular really completely disillusioned me.

  3. “This is a man who will listen to us, who will cut through the nonsense, who will do things in a way that makes sense, who won’t be flattered, who will stand up for the little ones.” Funny, I had exactly the opposite reaction when I heard of his election. I’m Jesuit educated. My husband is Jesuit educated. Our kids (except for our daughter) are all Jesuit educated. Heck, my uncle is a Jesuit. I love the Jesuits. And I believe my family owes them a great deal. But they are talkers. Wonderful talkers. And they are not men of action when it comes to fixing their own faults. At least not in the history and experience of my lifetime. There are very few Church people whose company I’ve enjoyed more when sitting down and having a few beers. But I’ll never look to any Jesuit to be a reformer of our current mess. Unfair? Maybe. But it was my initial reaction.

  4. Very well stated.

    I do not like feeling disloyal to my pope. I share your disappointment. St. John Paul did not live long enough to finish the work he started, and he seems to have had rather poor judgment about those he put his trust in sometimes – like Fr. Marcial Maciel, the evil founder of the Legion of Christ. Pope Benedict seems to have had terrible insomnia and other health issues we were not aware of until his death, in addition to his advanced age. And he was surrounded by advisors who betrayed him.

    I had great expectations, as you did. Pope Francis, sadly, is slowly becoming infirm as he ages, which is not surprising for anyone with his heavy responsibilities. I want a pope who makes me proud to be Catholic, who teaches and acts with morality, ethics, and clarity. Someone who says what he means and means what he says. I am sad to think we are not there yet. Peace to all here.

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