The Other I

September 11, 2018

What should Pope Francis do?

Filed under: Just Stuff — theotheri @ 7:31 pm

I was never abused by a pedophile priest, but I have been closely acquainted with several people who have, and I am intimately aware of the overwhelming number of Catholic priests who engage in sexual activity while claiming to be “celibate.”

But in truth, I was unprepared to discover how angry I was when Pope Francis during his recent visit to Ireland offered the suffering of the abused “to the arms of Mary,” but did not mention anything at all about the abusing priests themselves.  This is a Church that imposes a sentence on those who confess their sins in order to be forgiven.  It is even a Church that threatens serious sinners with eternal hell fire if they do not repent.

Why, then, does not Pope Francis insist that pedophile priests, bishops, and cardinals or those who knowingly covered up sexual abuse against children be brought to task?

I thought at first that Pope Francis should insist that guilty hierarchy resign.  But on reflection and reading, I now doubt that would get to the root of the problem.  First of all, Francis himself in the past has not insisted that bishops with a record of cover-ups should resign.  He, therefore, can in some ways be counted among the co-conspirators by  those members of the hierarchy who think the basic problem is that too many priests are homosexual.  They would love to see Pope Francis unseated and replaced by one of them.  But I think it is laughable to say the problem of pedophilia is fundamentally a question of homosexuality, and replacing Francis with a pope who thinks it is will merely bury the problem deeper.

In any case, the essence of Christianity from the very beginning was not in power but in love, in the community.  In many ways, that is what has been lost.  For centuries – even millennia – the lay community has been disenfranchised, and all the power put into the hands of ordained men.

I think it is once again the lay community that must be the essence of Christianity.  The priest, the minister must once again be the servant, not the master, of the people.

Practically, this means that lay people must be the core of institutions examining the sexual behavior of their priests.  This is occurring, of course, in the states in America which are setting up legal investigations into child abuse by priests similar to the recent investigation just concluded in Pennsylvania.  The effectiveness of actions of the lay people is also evident in Boston, laid out in stark detail in the documentary film Spot Light.   But we also need institutions dealing with community needs not only on the non-religious and political levels, but within each parish in the world.

So what do I think Pope Francis should do?  Maybe he already is doing it.  Maybe he is already encouraging lay people in dioceses and parishes throughout the world to take the initiatives that will pull away the veil of secrecy and immunity  currently bestowed on the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

Maybe Francis doesn’t want to be seen to be taking charge.

Because he doesn’t want Christians to think he is the solution.  Because he wants to decentralize the Church and give back to the community the responsibility that only the people can fulfill.


  1. or he does not want to expose himself as not only covering up individual pedophile clergy but ELEVATING ONE OF THEM TO CARDINALSHIP!! not only should he resign but should be tried in court – i agree that the power should be shifted to the community but the “flock” poor little lambs we are – have been brainwashed for years centuries forever churches started, perhaps, as a gathering place, a place of support, peace, encouragement now it is a place to extort money, ply you with guilt if you do not take on the mantle of acceptance for its policies ex cathedra pronouncements religion is ubiquitous from the beginning of time – a need to shield one for the inequities of life – death – loss – etc in the NEXT world it will be better – just follow the red velvet slippers……..


    Comment by karen peterlin — September 11, 2018 @ 8:29 pm | Reply

  2. So well put, Terry. Thank you.

    New Jersey apparently has a two-year statute of limitations on the prosecution of sexual abuse by the clergy. Even so, the attorney general has opened a hotline for victims no matter how old the behavior was. It is flooded with calls.

    There is a current episode of the BBC’s Assignment program on sexual abuse by priests in Chile and its cover-up. It’s the best such coverage on the issue I have yet heard, by a good stretch. For one thing it includes nuns who were attacked by priests, something we have not heard of in previous news as far as I know. Excellent program.


    Comment by Thomas J. Hubschman — September 14, 2018 @ 6:39 pm | Reply

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