By Jill Grinnell
Pope Francis recently called a meeting with 190 bishops from around the world to finally discuss the sexual-abuse crisis that has been a prevalent issue within the Church for decades. The purpose of the meeting was to address these scandals, but only addressing the problem is not going to solve it. Thousands of victims have come forward in the United States alone, and action still hasn’t been taken.
Pope Francis did say powerful statements about clerical culture and the abuse of power by priests in the Church; however, he really neglected to address what actions the Church now plans to take.
The Catholic Church has rightfully been receiving a lot of criticism for its immense lack of initiation and reform towards cases of sexual misconduct within members of the Church, leaving congregants disappointed, and even confused with how the Vatican is going to try to end the problem of sexual abuse.
As of 2019, hundreds of priests and bishops have resigned from the priesthood because they were accused of sexual abuse, mostly involving young boys and nuns. Although there are countless numbers of stories about sexual abuse, the Church has been able to hide thousands of stories from the media by manipulating and abusing the great amount of power they have.
Ex-cardinal George Pell is the Church’s most senior official to be convicted of sexual abuse. Pell was found guilty of abusing two 13-year-old choir boys in 1996 and 1997. He was convicted nine months earlier, but the court initially banned the press from reporting the case. Pell will now face 6 years of jail time (Thank the Lord).
His conviction has now raised questions about what measures the governing body of the Church will take to prevent and end any more sexual abuse. The Church should enforce a strict zero-tolerance policy for any member of the Church who is found guilty of sexual abuse. These child predators should be treated as such, and should have to face the legal repercussions for their crimes just like any other pedophile.
The lack of action towards creating a plan to tackle sexual abuse is really frustrating to me. It shocks me that there has not been any action taken, even though thousands of victims have come forward throughout the decades. Pope Francis and the Vatican are finally trying to solve this issue, but there is still a minimal amount of serious action taken. The Church has never openly faced a crisis like this, and it needs to take action now.
In October, Pope Francis called an emergency meeting with all 34 of Chile’s Roman Catholic Bishops, who offered their resignations over the allegations of sexual abuse with nuns. The urgency of the meeting and the approach Pope Francis took were quite surprising, considering that months earlier the Pope had defended Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, who had been accused of ignoring and covering up cases of the abuse of minors.
The change of direction Pope Francis has shown also raised questions about what actions he is going to take towards ending the problem of sexual abuse. The Pope is the worldwide leader of the Church, making him its most powerful member. It also frustrates me that Pope Francis has the power to change the Code of Canon Law and make stricter laws concerning sexual abuse, but hasn’t. He has the ability to make significant changes in the Church, and it makes me question why he hasn’t yet.
The devastating and disgusting reality of misconduct in the Church is very shocking to most members of the Church, but also to the rest of the world. The Vatican needs to take serious action and create new rules within Canon Law to prevent more cases of sexual misconduct and remove members guilty of abuse, because it is emotionally damaging to the victims, and it also causes current members of the Church to abandon the Catholic faith.