Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pope follows Boston cleric vs. abuse

Pope Francis will likely continue — if not ramp up — the church’s tough stance in recent years on clergy sex abuse, theologians and Vatican watchers say.

Catholic blogger Brandon Vogt said the pope appears to be continuing his predecessor’s zero tolerance policy on clergy sex abuse and seems to be following the lead of Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley.

“I think he’s trusting bishops more and letting them know they shouldn’t just wait for the Vatican to act and that bishops are responsible for their priests and that they’re responsible for their own dioceses,” Vogt said. “This is certainly how Cardinal O’Malley has approached this in Boston. He’s looking to that as a model for the rest of the world.”

A new Vatican document shows Pope Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, defrocked nearly 400 priests from 2011-12 for sexually assaulting children — more than double the number of priests removed in 2008 and 2009.

The Rev. James Bretzke, a professor of moral theology at Boston College, said the large number of clergy removals in the past two years are the result of completed reviews in a backlog of cases.

“Pope Francis has said in a number of talks that sexual abuse is a terrible crime and causes great suffering, so he’s not downplaying it,” Bretzke said.

Last month, the pope — after meeting with his eight cardinal advisers including O’Malley — created a commission to advise the Holy See on protecting children from sex abuse and helping victims heal. O’Malley will continue to play a role in influencing the pope’s stance on the issue, according to Bretzke.

“Of the American bishops, he’s the one with the most street cred for dealing with abuse,” Bretzke said. “It’s a culture change, and culture changes happen slowly, but a culture change is happening right now and Cardinal O’Malley is a change agent.”

No comments: