Pope Francis was supposed to be different. He is the first Jesuit pope. He is the first pope ever from the Americas and the first pope from outside Europe since Pope Gregory III died in 741, a span of 1272 years. Unlike his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, Francis was a Vatican outsider not tarnished by proximity to the code of plausibile deniability so prevalent in Rome concerning priests more interested in prepubescent ass than saying mass.
It turns out he is not that different after all.
On Sunday moning, Pope Francis said mass at Sala Regia in the Apostolic Palace. In the audience were 190 members of the Catholic Church leadership including 114 bishops and dozens of survivors of sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic clergy.
When he reached the part of his sermon discussing the child sexual abuse scandal which began leaking out in the 1980’s but that seemingly makes weekly headlines during the last few years, Pope Francis had a simple explantion.
The devil made them do it.
First, he tried a little whataboutism with a dash of false equivalency when he mentioned that as horrible as the rampant paedophilia and abuse in the Catholic Church might be, pagan rituals often involved human sacrifice with children often selected as the ideal sacrifice.
“I am reminded of the cruel religious practice, once widespread in certain cultures, of sacrificing human beings – frequently children – in pagan rites.”
Yes, he went there. He looked out at an audience which included child sex abuse victims who had been invited to Rome to tell their stories firsthand and who attended this mass desperately hoping for an apology and a firm plan for how such abuses could be avoided in the past. And instead of offering that apology or explaining some new method of rooting-out abusers, the pope effectively said,
“Look, I know it must have been a painful and traumatic experience when your local priest raped you at 7 years old, and the church probably should have defrocked that priest before he had the chance to rape you as he had already raped little boys at five other parishes, but look on the bright side, he only bent you over the altar instead of sacrificing you on it.”
Pope Francis did not hold the priests accountable for their actions, but blamed “human frailty or sickness” which allowed the accused priests to “become tools of Satan.”
Maybe we should not have been so surprised that Pope Francis is just another in a long line of popes who refuse to get in front of the issue that the Catholic Church has a significant number of priests who delight in getting little boys in front of them?
After all, in January 2018 during a visit to Chile, Pope Francis used the term “all calumny” to describe the accusations against Chile’s most notorious paedophile priest (Rev Fernando Karadima) and the protege (Juan Barros) alleged to have watched abd failed to act. Calumny derives from the Latin word calvi (to trick or deceive) and is an implication of false verbal attacks that are meant to destroy reputations. Slander, basically.
Barros is a bishop now.
Who appointed Barros bishop in 2015 despite the allegations dating back to 2002?
Who canonized Pope John Paul II, the pope who largely paid lip service to the sexual abuse scandal for decades while continuing to promote priests and bishops accused of abuse through the ranks?
In his Sunday sermon, Pope Francis spoke of how the global epidemic of child sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Church was “utterly incompatible with (its) moral authority and ethical credibility,”
Of course, he did not call it “the global epidemic of child sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Church.” Instead, he described it a “worldwide phenomenon” like it was some sort of a miracle that just happened one day by diving (or diabolic) intervention.
Not that the choice of words matters much, especially since the Catholic Church lost any moral authority or ethical credibility a long time ago.