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The Pope’s Pursuit of Global Relevance Should be Quashed Because of Continuing Sex Abuse

stock-photo-74729579-pope-francis-in-the-usaPope Francis has been trying to improve his relationship with other governments.

“The world looks to this great wisdom of yours,” the pope told China’s Xi Jinping. Francis “urged the world not to fear China’s growing power and conveyed a message of friendship” to the president in an interview published Feb. 2.

Pope Francis granted a 40-minute private audience to Iran president Hassan Rouhani on Jan. 26.  If they discussed Iran’s alliance with Russia supporting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s “extermination” of his civilian population, it was not mentioned in the Vatican’s press release – a strange omission for a pope who is always urging compassion for the Assad’s refugees.

Pope Francis will meet with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and Cuban president Raul Castro on Feb. 12 in Cuba. Kirill is a close ally of Pres. Vladimir Putin, so the meeting has Putin’s approval. Kirill will be in Cuba at the invitation of Castro to celebrate the historic ties between the Russian Orthodox church and the island nation, a result of Cuba’s historical alliance with Russia. The meeting was probably arranged after Castro met Kirill in Moscow when he went to discuss with Putin “increased bilateral cooperation with Russia and the implementation of joint projects” last May and then flew directly to a private meeting with Pope Francis.

Pope Francis’ prestige outside the Catholic Church rests entirely on his being viewed as a moral authority. Yet recent events prove his continuing contempt for past, present and future victims of clerical sex abuse. The only outspoken member of the pope’s sex abuse commission was booted out on Feb. 6. “Peter Saunders has frequently argued that the panel is writing ineffectual guidelines instead of exposing predator priests who continue to molest children.”


“A thaw has seemingly flourished between the People’s Republic of China and the Holy See, following the nearly simultaneous accessions of Pope Francis and Xi Jinping, president of China – March 13 and March 14, 2013, respectively.”  A year later, Pope Francis was preparing to “re-engage in official dialogue with China.”

While the pope’s upcoming meeting with Kirill is touted as an “Ecumenical Earthquake,” Francis considers ecumenism to be a political tool. He refused the Dalai Lama’s request for a meeting on Dec. 11, 2014, because “the Holy See’s relationship with the Chinese government  was  currently going through a very delicate – a crucial in fact – phase.”

“I am deeply saddened and distressed that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, should give in to these pressures and decline to meet the Dalai Lama,’” South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu stated.

Pope Francis’ refusal was a victory for China. “Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama is drawing less and less attention in the West and manages to win eyeballs only with pointless suggestions that his title will die out with him, a top Chinese official told state media” on Dec. 18, 2014.

In his recent interview about China, Pope Francis made no reference to Xi Jinping’s wretched record on human rights or religious freedom. In the U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2015, both China and Iran are still listed as “Tier 1 Countries of Particular Concern.” In October, “China announced an intensified campaign against Christian churches ahead of a national summit on religion. [A report] says President Xi wants to have more control on churches and other religious organizations in the country.”

China has made no concessions to the Vatican.

Pope Francis positioned himself as Putin’s ally early in his pontificate. Although the massacre of civilians had been ongoing since the day he was elected, the pontiff didn’t hold a rally for Peace in Syria in September 2013 until Pres. Obama had proposed a limited air strike to deter the further use of chemical weapons. Patriarch Kirill sent Obama a letter asking him “to listen to the cries of religious leaders who unanimously opposed proposals for military intervention” against Assad.

Pope Francis had his first meeting with Putin in November 2013. “Putin has recently been defending Christianity both domestically and internationally, most notably in his vocal defense of persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Like the Vatican, he also sought to prevent escalation of the conflict in Syria after a chemical weapons attack in August.”

Patriarch Kirill supports Putin’s homophobic policies,  efforts to restrict abortion,  military action in the Ukraine and Syria and shares Putin’s defiant anti-Western views.

The last time Putin met with the pope was two days after the G7 condemned Russian actions in the Ukraine. “Russian aggression” Obama said topped the G7 agenda.

In order to maintain cordial relations with Putin, Pope Francis prayed that “this horrible fratricidal violence will cease as soon as possible.” Stunned that the pope viewed the conflict as a civil war, Ukrainian Catholic bishops went to Rome to tell Pope Francis “the truth” about the war in their country after complaints by some Ukrainians that the Holy See was being influenced by Russian propaganda.  In response, Pope Francis told these bishops “to stay out of political debates and focus their energies on caring for their people and in reaffirming Christian values.”


Peter Saunders, a British survivor of clerical sex abuse who was ousted from the pope’s Commission for the Protection of Minors, said that he felt betrayed by Pope Francis.

“Of course Pope Francis has established he is part of the problem,” Saunders said in an interview. “That breaks my heart because when I met him 18 months ago I thought there was a sincerity and a willingness to make things happen, and I am afraid that has been dashed now.”

“The way the Church and the commission operates,” Saunders said, “is also at the heart of why abuse within the Church is still so rampant and widespread.” He added: “It is because everything has to exist under conditions of secrecy and darkness and I am not prepared to work like that and I am not prepared to be silenced on an issue as important as child protection.”

“As a parent, it breaks my heart when I hear of serious allegations of abuse that are not going to be tackled.” Saunders said the notion that clerical sex abuse was a problem of past decades – an argument Vatican officials have assiduously promoted – had to be challenged. “This is not in any sense a historical issue or problem,” he said. “It has to be tackled now. The pope could do so much more and he is doing next to nothing.”

“This is a societal problem – but if the Church, the so-called moral leadership of the world, does not take a lead in this area it would quite rightly be considered morally bankrupt in every other area.”

Saunders now says he realizes the commission was always going to be about “smoke and mirrors” and that he is convinced the Church will never act alone to cure the “cancer” in its midst. “I made it clear that I would not be a member of a public relations exercise. The protection of our children is much more important than that.”

In fact, the commission was inaugurated as a “public relations exercise.”

On July 1, 2013, the United Nation’s Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) sent a request to the pope for “detailed information on all cases of child sexual abuse” committed by clergy and religious for the past 15 years and set Nov. 1 as a deadline for a reply.

Pope Francis responded to the CRC on Dec. 4 by stating his government would not disclose that information. He was criticized by the media for his response.

The next day, the creation of an “advisory” Commission on the Protection of Minors with no authority was announced.

Saunders also acknowledged that a Vatican tribunal supposedly instituted last June – reported as the pope’s “most significant move yet to deal with the sexual abuse scandals” by the media – to crack down on bishops who cover up for predators “exists in name only.” The new system gave the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the authority to “judge bishops with regard to crimes of the abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors.”

In a January report: “A former official in the Diocese of Regensburg (Germany) accused Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), of systematically covering up sexual abuse cases during his decade as bishop of the Bavarian diocese. Fritz Wallner, who once worked as chairman of Regensburg’s lay diocesan council, claims that the then-Bishop Müller and his vicar-general, Mgr Michael Fuchs, introduced what Mr. Wallner called, ‘The Regensburg System,’ which prevented such abuse cases from coming to light.” (Müller’s appointment of Fr. Peter Kramer, an already-convicted child sex abuser, as pastor in Regensberg, was well-known before Pope Francis promoted him to cardinal.)

Of course, if Pope Francis was really going to hold bishops accountable who failed to deal properly with clergy sexual abuse, he’d have to start with himself. As Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the pope advocated for convicted sex offender, Fr. Julio Grassi, and tried to discredit his young victims.

Saunders said his ouster “was triggered by tensions that arose after a fellow commission member told him about being approached by two priests from an Italian diocese who had discovered a colleague was a serial abuser of children. Saunders said the whistle-blowing priests in the Italian case had been told to stay silent by their bishop.

Similarly, it was reported on Jan. 24 that a pastor from West Palm Beach, Florida, said his bishop forced him out after he blew the whistle about another priest.

Fr. John Gallagher learned one of his priests, Jose Palimatton, had shown child pornography to a teenage boy.

He reported it to the Diocese of Palm Beach. But he says they didn’t want to hear it. “When I made the initial phone call to the diocese, I was told we are used to this, we normally put people like this on an airplane,” Gallagher said.

Bishop Gerald Barbarito, Gallagher says, called him a few days later and said he didn’t want to know the details of the Palimatton incident.

Gallagher called the sheriff’s office. Palimatton was arrested, pleaded guilty and got 6 months in jail and was ordered deported back to India.

Fr. Gallagher says instead of applauding what he did to get rid of a pedophile priest the Church has treated him like an outcast.

“You’re shunned all the way. There’s roadblocks. You’re shunned. You’re not supported. You’re left on your own,” Gallagher explained.

He tried to share his concerns with Cardinal Sean O’Malley in Boston. [O’Malley is head of the pope’s commission on sex abuse.] Gallagher says he got nowhere.

“Cardinal O’Malley suggested that I would take a very long vacation on Oct. 8, 2015,” Gallagher said. “I had all my hopes in Pope Francis and zero tolerance and full disclosure and I don’t see that,” Gallagher said.

In an unsolicited letter about this case last May to her superior, detective Debi Phillips of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office praised the Irish priest …

Fr. Gallagher and his staff provided “timely evidence” that led to conviction of Fr. Palimattom.

“I truly believe that if it wasn’t for the co-operation I received from [him], other children would have been victimized,” the detective wrote.

In a July 20th letter to Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Ms. Phillips’s superior, chief deputy Michael Gauger, said he “felt compelled to write” on behalf of Fr. Gallagher.

The day after Saunders was booted out, another survivor of clerical sex abuse, Juan Carlos Cruz, delivered two letters to O’Malley to be given to Pope Francis.

The letters are from the organization of lay Catholic people of Osorno, Chile, and another one from the clergy of the same city. Both letters plea with the Holy Father to remove Bishop Juan Barros who is causing an unprecedented division in the diocese because of his implication in the cover-up of sexual abuse in Chile.

Osorno is the community of faithful Pope Francis called “dumb” and “leftist” last year because of their refusal to accept the imposition of a bishop involved in the most emblematic case [Fr. Fernando Karadima] of child sexual abuse in Latin America…

“The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has become another Vatican corner of secrets and lies while children are still being abused all over the world and many bishops remain silent,” continued Cruz.

(Karadima’s crimes were well-known to Argentine Cardinal Bergoglio long before he became pope.)

“For me the commission is a disgrace,” Cruz said. “It includes no abuse survivor from the Southern Hemisphere, which is a playground for pedophiles.”

When Pope Francis visits Mexico from Feb. 12-17, many people will be watching to see if he finally addresses the Vatican’s failures to prevent and punish cases of child sexual abuse by some members of the Mexican clergy.

There’s plenty of such scandals to address – from a priest in Oaxaca accused of abusing indigenous minors to the fugitive priests of San Luis Potosí on the run from sexual abuse charges. There are other cases of the Church hierarchy allegedly protecting accused pedophile priests such as Nicolas Aguilar Rivera, who was transferred from Puebla to Los Angeles, California, after facing several accusations in Mexico.

But perhaps the most notorious case is that of Marcial Maciel, a priest accused of sexually abusing dozens of minors during his tenure as the leader of the powerful Catholic order known as “The Legionaries of Christ.” …

In a recent interview with a Mexican reporter, Pope Francis said Maciel, who died in 2008, was “sick, greatly sick.” But he downplayed the Vatican’s involvement in any cover-up. …

“There’s an entire institutional strategy to manage these cases from the inside, in secret and with the intention of disqualifying those who speak out,” charges Alberto Athie, a former priest who now helps sexual abuse survivors. …

Clerical pederasty still prevails,” Athie said. “The [Vatican’s] structure hasn’t been touched.”


(Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America)



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