POPE FRANCIS Struggles To Steer Church Through MANY CONTROVERSIES
Pope Francis has said the world expects “concrete measures” to tackle child sexual abuse by priests and not only “simple and obvious condemnations”.
At a summit to discuss the scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church, he said “the cry of the little ones seeking justice” had to be heard.
Details of sexual abuse have emerged across the world and the Church has been accused of covering up crimes.
Survivors say new safeguarding protocols are needed to protect minors.
When he was elected in 2013, Pope Francis called for “decisive action” on the issue, but critics say he has not done enough to hold to account bishops who allegedly covered up abuse.
Thousands of people are thought to have been abused by priests over many decades.
The meeting was called to address decades of abuse disclosures that have rattled the church, eroded trust in its leadership and driven away some of the faithful.
The gathering is intended to be a moment to realign and move forward, and before it began, in what many saw as a significant step, the Vatican expelled Theodore E. McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, from the priesthood. It was the first time any cardinal has been defrocked for sexual abuse.
But while the church expressed hope that the four-day meeting of 190 participants from across the world, including Pope Francis, would mark a turning point, there is a risk that fresh controversies may overshadow it.
Here is a look at some of them.
Gay Priests Speak Out
The accusations that Mr. McCarrick, as an archbishop, had abused his seminary students and young priests — and not only children — caused some Catholic conservatives to call for the expulsion of gay men from the priesthood.
Despite repeated studies showing no connection between homosexuality and pedophilia, some Catholic bishops and conservative church media outlets have laid the blame for the sexual abuse on homosexuality inside the church.
Now, gay priests are increasingly speaking out, demanding recognition both of their role in the church and the fact that their sexual orientation has no connection to the abuse perpetrated by others.
Though fewer than about 10 priests in the United States have come out publicly, gay priests and researchers estimate that gay men probably make up at least 30 to 40 percent of the Catholic clergy in the United States. Like all Catholic priests, they take a vow of celibacy.
Two dozen priests and seminarians from 13 states shared details of their lives as gay men within the church with The New York Times. They offered a look at a life in the shadows that some said was less like a closet than a jail.
Pope Francis once famously signaled more openness to gay priests when he said, “Who am I to judge?” But since then he has seemed to reverse course. Last year, Francis called homosexuality “fashionable” and recommended that men with “this deep-seated tendency” not be accepted into the priesthood.
In the Netherlands this week, a group of gay priests made public a letter sent to Francis late last year calling out the church’s stance on homosexuality in the priesthood. It said Vatican leaders “tend to suggest that those priests who are openly gay are the ones responsible for the sexual abuse of children and minors,” and asked for a rethinking of the policies around gay priests.
The debate promises to make its way into the bishop meetings.
While Catholic priests make a commitment to a life of celibacy, the Vatican has an internal protocol for dealing with the children of those who violate that vow. The Times made it public this week.
Fathering Children Within The Church
The Vatican confirmed that its department overseeing Catholic priests globally has general guidelines for what to do when clerics father children.
Sometimes the children are born from relationships between priests and women in the community — or nuns. But other children are the consequence of rape.
The internal church document, which is from 2017, lays out guidelines for the “protection of the child,” a Vatican spokesman said.
And though it requests that priests leave the church if they father children, there is no requirement that they do so.
Abuse Of Nuns
This month, Pope Francis acknowledged for the first time the abuse of nuns at the hands of priests and other church officials, something he said was an ongoing problem. The issue has long been overshadowed by other scandals within the church, but the pontiff’s admission may change that.
While advocates for victims applauded the pope’s comments, it is unclear what the church plans to do about the problem. It is also unclear how widespread the abuse is.
There have been many accounts of nuns being abused in Africa and India. Nuns who are financially dependent on priests or bishops in positions of power are especially vulnerable to attack.
In the Indian state of Kerala, a prominent bishop is facing charges that he repeatedly raped a nun. The bishop, Franco Mulakkal, has denied the accusations, but dozens of nuns signed a letter urging the Vatican to remove him.
And still more nuns have stepped forward to report sexual abuse at the hands of priests, the police in Kerala say.
Pope Francis must confront the assumptions, attitudes and practices that have allowed a culture of abuse to flourish. The extent of this challenge may prove overwhelming.
This is only the beginning of an attempt to address a sickness that has been poisoning the Church since at least the 1980s, leaving its moral authority in tatters.
The focus is now firmly fixed on Pope Francis, who leads an organisation with more than 1.2 billion adherents, present in virtually every country on Earth.
His pontificate began with widespread enthusiasm for a man who chose pastoral appeal over pomp and ceremony, humility and compassion over the trappings of status. But how it ends is likely to depend on the action he takes, and the protocols he implements, to deal with the scourge of abuse.
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