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The Duplicitous Pope Francis

On Jan. 14, “clergy abuse victims asked the European Court of Human Rights to make a definitive ruling on whether the Vatican can continue to avoid being held liable for sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests by claiming state immunity … immunities afforded to a nation state while escaping the responsibilities that come with being a real nation, they argued,” the Associated Press reported.

“The 24 victims had stated the Vatican was indeed liable for their abuse because of the ‘structurally deficient’ way the Catholic hierarchy had handled cases of priests who raped and molested children for decades, covering up the crimes rather than reporting them,” explained the AP.

A week later, Pope Francis promised to provide justice to victims of clergy sexual abuse. “The Church, with God’s help, is carrying out the commitment with firm determination to do justice to the victims of abuse by its members,” the pope said without offering to do so in the European Court or any other specific case.

(The pontiff was commenting the day after an independent audit criticized Pope Benedict XVI for misconduct in four cases of abusive clergy when he was Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger of Munich from 1977 to 1982.)

The French Report

“French Catholic clergy sexually abused some 216,000 minors from 1950 to 2020, a ‘massive phenomenon’ that was covered up for decades by a ‘veil of silence,’ an independent commission stated on Oct. 5, 2021. The commission’s two and a half year investigation was prompted by outrage over abuse claims and prosecutions against Church officials worldwide,” Agence France-Press reported.

“The Catholic Church had shown ‘deep, total and even cruel indifference for years,’ protecting itself rather than the victims of what was systemic abuse, said Jean-Marc Sauve, head of the commission that compiled the report,” according to Reuters.

Pope Francis was asked to comment about this report during the press conference held on Dec. 6 during the flight from Greece back to Rome. He responded with cruel indifference: “When doing these studies … there is a risk of confusing the way you perceive the problem of a time period 70 years before. I just want to say this as a principle: A historical situation should be interpreted with the [knowledge] of the time, not ours. For example, the cover-up is the way that is used unfortunately in families, even today, in a large number of families, and in neighborhoods. We say, no, this covering up is not the way to go.”

Pope Francis ignored that the report extended to 2020 and that “most victims don’t come forward for many years due to the emotional trauma, health problems and social pressures,” as explained by Barbara Dorris, outreach director for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). In fact, “the average age at the time of reporting child sex abuse was about 52 years” according to Child USA the national think tank for child protection.

After almost nine years in office, Pope Francis should have known better. Even before the pontiff initiated his own do-nothing commissions, this information was available to him from the dozens of reports by attorneys general, grand juries, commissions and organizations (as listed on the BishopAccountability.org website) that were completed before his election in 2013.

Since then, there have been dozens more including the very lengthy and thorough reports by UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN Committee Against Torture – which found that the widespread sexual violence within the Catholic Church amounted to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment – Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.

Not only do these reports confirm that it takes decades for victims to report their abuse, but also that Pope Francis should hold those bishop’s accountable who covered-up the sexual torture of children.

The clerical sexual torture of children is “continuing every day,” Tim Lennon, president of SNAP, stated. So Pope Francis should additionally “compel the bishops to open the books, but he has not done so. The pope could say to every bishop that you have to report all abuse to the police. He hasn’t done so. He’s just given us concerns. So even up until today we see this giant kind of cover up,”

Pope Benedict’s misconduct v. Pope Francis’ abetting these crimes

The report of Pope Benedict’s “misconduct” made front-page news in all the American mainstream media, “Two of those cases, one of the report’s authors, Martin Pusch said, involved perpetrators who offended while he was in office and were punished by the judicial system but were kept in pastoral work without express limits on what they were allowed to do. No action was ordered under canon law,” the AP reported.

“In a third case, a cleric who had been convicted by a court outside Germany was put into service in the Munich archdiocese and the circumstances speak for Ratzinger having known of the priest’s previous history, Pusch said.”

“When the Church abuse scandal first flared in Germany in 2010, attention swirled around another case: that of a pedophile priest whose transfer to Munich to undergo therapy was approved under Ratzinger in 1980. The priest was allowed to resume pastoral work … In 1986, the priest received a suspended sentence for molesting a boy.”

Note that in each of the above cases, there was a civil judgment that the priest would not be imprisoned but should remain free.

In contrast, there are at least three cases that we know of where Pope Francis’ abetted a sexual predator.

Fr. Julio César Grassi 

When Pope Francis was cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires, “Fr. Julio César Grassi was arrested and charged with 17 counts of sexual abuse of three boys who lived in a home for street children that Grassi founded. After Grassi’s conviction in 2009 for molesting a boy, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio commissioned a secret study to persuade Supreme Court judges of Grassi’s innocence.

Bergoglio’s intervention is believed to be at least part of the reason that Grassi remained free for more than four years following his conviction. He finally was sent to jail in September 2013,” according the BishopAccountaiblity.org.

Archbishop Josef Wesolowski

Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, the Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic, was accused of soliciting many poor street boys for sex. Pope Francis was informed in July 2013. He dismissed Wesolowski in secret from his post but left him a free man and he fled to Rome.

The archbishop was finally arrested by the Vatican in September 2014 only after “there was a serious risk that the ambassador would be arrested on Italian territory at the request of the Dominican authorities and then extradited,” reported the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera. The archbishop was found with more than 100,000 computer files of child pornography, a “key ingredient” in sex trafficking.

Wesolowski died mysteriously while he was under house arrest in the Vatican on the eve of his trial which would have brought attention to the above information

Fr. Nicola Corradi

By open letter and video message “handed to Pope Francis” in May 2014, former students at the notorious Provolo Institute for the Deaf in Italy where more than one hundred deaf and mute children had been sexually abused, informed the pontiff that one of the predators, Fr. Nicola Corradi, held a current position at the Provolo Institute in Argentina.

The pope took no action to stop him.

Corradi and four others in the Argentine school were arrested in November 2016 and charged with raping and molesting at least 22 children. More reports poured in and “it’s now thought that as many as 60 children fell victim to abuse.” Prosecutors said the alleged anal and vaginal rapes, fondling and oral sex took place in the bathrooms, dorms, garden, basement and chapel. “Victims said they were taken to the Casita de Dios (the little house of God) where they were forced to perform sexual acts on one another and made to watch other students being abused.”

“One of the alleged victims said she witnessed how a girl was raped by one priest while the other one forced her to give him oral sex.” Another accused a nun “of making her wear a diaper to cover up a hemorrhage after she was raped by a priest” when she was five years old.

“The tormentors” knew “the other children wouldn’t hear the screams as they were deaf.”

In May 2019, the Argentine group Church Without Abuses and the international organizations Ending Clergy Abuse and BishopAccountability.org met with alleged victims in Mendoza “to show solidarity with the Provolo victims and echo their cry for justice,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org.  “Pope Francis owes them a personal apology for his complicity and silence. The Italian victims warned him for years that Corradi and others were working with children in Argentina. The pope did nothing,” stated Doyle.

Corradi was found guilty by a three-judge panel in Nov. 2019 and sentenced to 42 years in prison .

Pope Francis: “A Scourge”

“Pope Francis called child sex abuse a ‘scourge’ and said victims expected ‘concrete and efficient measures’ to address the scandal. He urged bishops to ‘listen to the cry of the children who ask for justice’ as an unprecedented meeting on the Catholic Church’s handling of sexual abuse opened on Feb. 21, 2019,” reported NBC. “Around 190 leaders of bishops’ conferences and religious orders were summoned to the Vatican by the pontiff with one aim: regain credibility in the eyes of the world, and of the many victims of abuse.”

Outside the Vatican, dozens of survivors and their advocates protested. “Meetings, promises, this, that and other things,” said Peter Isley, an abuse survivor and spokesman for End Clergy Abuse. “We want zero tolerance for priests who assaulted a child, and for the bishops and cardinals who covered up the crime,” Isley added. “Pope Francis is the only one who can do that,” NBC reported. Isley declared, “Time is up, you know.”

Unfortunately for the hundreds of thousands of victims around the world of clerical sexual torture – past, present and future – time is not up because the American mainstream media does not hold Pope Francis accountable.

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


6 Responses

  1. Not to mention that these men parade around altars, hearing Confessions, etc while wielding unaccountable power. Of course they belong in prison. If they had any remnant of soul left they would turn themselves in and be done with it.
    Heartfelt gratitude to you, Betty Clermont.
    Augusta Wynn

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment, Ms. Wynn, I totally agree. Your encouragement is much appreciated!.

  2. I am always amazed at the details of your essays then angered by their content. It is not just the American media that does not care about the sexual abuse of children, but our male dominated species world wide at every level of power, legal, religious, governmental.

    When I was younger I foolishly thought the sexual abuse of children would become less as man became more sophisticated, but I was wrong as the advent of the internet technology has made the problem worse.

    As for the Catholic Church I think their point of view was summed up by Bishop Robert Finn of Missouri. When faced with the pictures taken by Shawn Ratigan of little girls of his parishioners Finn said, “Boys will be boys” That is the true belief of the leaders of that organization and any words otherwise uttered by the pope are just platitudes to appease the masses.

    P.S. I can always count on you to remember the Wesolowski story. That was my proof early on that this pope would do nothing. Thanks, Eileen

    • It’s good to hear from you again, Eileen. Your heartfelt and knowledgeable comments are always appreciated as well as your encouragement!!

  3. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger resigned from the papacy. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio should resign as well. No emeritus pope title for either man. No white cassocks. As signs of repentance for gross negligence and moral irresponsibility, they should probably be removed as cardinals. Let them retire not in some kind of comfortable secluded monastic hideaway but in humble ministry in a residence for sexual abusers or drug addicts. Nice-sounding words may be good PR stunts but they are hollow words unless followed up publicly by concrete and broad-based action. You have clearly presented the reality of pontifical hypocrisy and perverted Christian behavior. Thank you.

    • Thank you so very much for taking the time to comment. Your suggestions are all worthy of action. Sadly, popes – as heads of state – never have to suffer for their responsibilities for the sexual torture of hundreds of thousands of children around the world.

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