Speaking about the horrific abuse of children by priests, Francis said “the cases of abuse are terrible because they leave very deep wounds”. Benedict XVI “was very courageous and opened a road, and the Church has done a lot on this route, perhaps more than all others”, he stated. He noted that the statistics reveal the tremendous violence against children, but also that the vast majority of abuse takes place in the milieu of the family and those close to them. The Church is the only public institution to have moved “with transparency and responsibility”, he said; no one else has done as much as it, “but the Church is the only one to be attacked”.Now, I first hoped that this translation is in error, or the interview misquoted, but alas, no.
So let's be clear: Pope Francis is, empirically, wrong. The Church has, as demonstrated by a spate of grand jury reports, and other investigatory reports, including the Cloyne Report, just to name a couple, and the Murphy Report, cited in my monograph at the link (alas, not the final version, which is available only on Westlaw or LEXIS or in print), has obfuscated, evaded secular law enforcement, and consistently protected the accused over the victims. Nor is this behavior relegated to the dim past, as demonstrated by last year's effort by the Archdiocese of Newark to shield a priest's violation of a plea agreement. The Church has been anything but transparent.
It is true that Pope Benedict improved on the abysmal record of Pope John Paul; at least he removed the serial abuser Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado from ministry, who had been protected by John Paul II until that Pope's health broke down. He also presided over an improvement of the canon law process. But the Pope Emeritus never engaged with the real problem: the Church's culture of reserving jurisdiction to itself over violations of secular criminal law.
Francis, using motifs from the John Paul-Benedict playbook, is likewise claiming that the Church looks good in comparison to secular organizations, is the real victim of media bias--both claims raised, as I noted in Command and Coercion, by his predecessors to deflect criticism that is in fact well-founded and, on the facts, unanswerable.
Pope Francis has set a new tone for his papacy, but this verse of the song, for now, remains the same.
(Hat-tip: The Dish)