Sara Miller Llana contextualizes Pope Francis’s meetings with victims of clerical sex abuse yesterday, during which he begged their forgiveness for the church’s failure to protect them or respond to reports of abuse:
It’s taken almost a year and a half for him to meet with victims themselves, compared to his predecessor Pope Benedict, who was much less popular but met with victims on many trips around the world. This meeting – with victims from Ireland, Britain, and Germany – has also come under fire from victims’ groups in his native Argentina, who were excluded from this first encounter. And he raised a storm of criticism this year when he defended the church’s actions in general in the scandal. “The Catholic Church is maybe the only institution to have moved with transparency and responsibility,” Francis said. “No one else has done more. Yet the church is the only one to be attacked.” This is the first time a pope has received victims inside the Vatican.
Despite the criticism, Marco Politi, a veteran Vatican observer in Rome and author of the new book “Francis Among the Wolves,” says he believes the pope is continuing the work of his predecessor and forging a new, structural response. He created a commission on sexual abuse, which includes women as well as a former victim, and has taken action to back up his stated goal of zero tolerance. Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, a Polish bishop recalled from the Dominican Republic last September on claims of sexual abuse, was recently defrocked.
The apology isn’t cutting it for some survivor-activists, who claim the pope isn’t doing enough to protect kids:
Even though [Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP)], now 25 years old, is the most widely recognized global support group for clerical victims with more than 18,000 members, no one from their leadership was invited to meet with Francis. Ahead of the meeting [SNAP outreach director Barbara] Blaine, who was raped by her parish priest as a teenager, posed a number of topics she would like to discuss with Francis, if only she were given a chance. First, she says she would like to tell the pope, “Stop talking about the crisis as though it’s past tense, and stop delaying while your abuse panels discusses details. You know the right thing to do. You don’t need a report.”