Fran­cis ad­dresses ‘re­pel­lent crimes’

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY CHICO HARLAN AND AMANDA FER­GU­SON Wash­ing­ton Post

Pope Fran­cis said Satur­day that the “fail­ure of ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal author­i­ties” to ad­dress sex­ual abuse has “rightly given rise to out­rage,” his first ac­knowl­edg­ment dur­ing his trip to Ire­land of the trau­mas here that have rad­i­cally di­min­ished the Ro­man Catholic clergy’s once-tow­er­ing author­ity.

In an ad­dress at Dublin Cas­tle, Fran­cis de­scribed the “re­pel­lent crimes” and the fail­ure to deal with them as “a source of pain and shame for the Catholic com­mu­nity.” But he did not dis­cuss con­crete changes in laws or trans­parency or ad­dress the question of the Vat­i­can’s com­plic­ity in the abuse cases.

“I can­not fail to ac­knowl­edge the grave scan­dal caused in Ire­land by the abuse of young peo­ple by mem­bers of the church charged with re­spon­si­bil­ity for their pro­tec­tion and ed­u­ca­tion,” Fran­cis told a room filled with mem­bers of the Ir­ish govern­ment, other law­mak­ers and diplo­mats.

Fran­cis is vis­it­ing Ire­land for the World Meet- ing of Fam­i­lies, a on­ceev­ery-three-years gath­er­ing in­tended by the Vat­i­can to strengthen fam­ily bonds. But his trip is be­ing dom­i­nated by the is­sue of sex­ual abuse – both the decades-long legacy of church-linked crimes in Ire­land and a string of re­cent bruis­ing rev­e­la­tions about priests and prelates across the world.

The Vat­i­can said Satur­day that Fran­cis also met for 90 min­utes with a group of eight sur­vivors who had ex­pe­ri­enced abuse in a range of church-run in­sti­tu­tions. It did not re­lease de­tails about the meet­ing, but the gath­er­ing in­cluded Marie Collins, a for­mer mem­ber of Fran­cis’ ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion on sex­ual abuse who re­signed last year cit­ing frus­tra­tions with in­ter­nal Vat­i­can op­po­si­tion to re­forms.

At a panel dis­cus­sion Fri­day, Collins called for the church to adopt a pol­icy of im­me­di­ately re­mov­ing any priest found to have com­mit­ted abuse.

“Sadly, more of­ten canon law has been used to pro­tect the abuser than pun­ish him,” Collins said.

The trip is Fran­cis’ most di­rect en­counter yet with the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of abuse scan­dals and is ex­pected to test whether he can be­gin to re­build the church’s stand­ing in a coun­try where Catholi­cism was once the so­cial and re­li­gious bedrock. Some Ir­ish Catholics have said they want the pope to ask for­give­ness for the Vat­i­can’s role in fa­cil­i­tat- ing the coverup of sex­ual crimes. Others say he will be hard-pressed to re­gain the trust dam­aged by sev­eral gov­ern­ment­backed in­quiries into abuses in dio­ce­ses and other church-run in­sti­tu­tions.

Mark Vin­cent Healy, an Ir­ish vic­tim of cler­i­cal abuse, said Fran­cis’ speech to be­gin the trip was “empty – re­ally empty.”

“I was with a group of sur­vivors, and they were all up­set with the state­ments as be­ing in­ef­fec­tual,” he said.

The first pa­pal visit to Ire­land in 39 years was also a marker of how sec­u­lar­iza­tion and feel­ings of be­trayal have ac­cel­er­ated a move away from the church. In 1979, Pope John Paul II was greeted over sev­eral days by an es­ti­mated 2.7 mil­lion peo­ple. Fran­cis, as he toured Dublin in his pope­mo­bile Satur­day, drew crowds of peo­ple cheer­ing and wav­ing yel­low and white Vat­i­can City flags. But the city did not come to a stand­still, and many Dublin­ers con­tin­ued with their rou­tines, meet­ing in pubs, do­ing laun­dry, watch­ing bits and pieces of the pope’s visit on tele­vi­sion.

At Croke Park Park Sta­dium, where Fran­cis was sched­uled to ad­dress a crowd at­tend­ing the Fes­ti­val for Fam­i­lies on Satur­day evening, pa­pal mer­chan­dise was sell­ing at dis­count prices.

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