The Holy Father’s letter, addressed to the People of God – to all people of good will – does not introduce anything new to the dialogue regarding clergy sexual abuse of children. However, it does serve to crystalize Pope Francis’ resolve in focusing the scope of the horrific actions that have been perpetrated by those who should have been guardians, caretakers, loving shepherds and who were, in fact, predators on the innocent.
Many commentators had previously stated that the Pope “did not get it.” It seems after his about-face with the hierarchy of Chile and now his reaction to the revelations from Pennsylvania, he does indeed understand. There is no attempt to excuse or to deflect blame and guilt for sinful and criminal behavior. And he is calling the Church – all of the Church, to be part of a solution: “. . .Every one of the baptized should feel involved in the. . .change that we so greatly need.” In fact, he is calling for a change of heart that allows for new ways of acting, living, new ways of being followers of Christ.
Pope Francis, in his letter, admits that “we have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.”
As he once more condemns all forms of clericalism that tends to “diminish and undervalue” the true dignity of all Christians, the Holy Father calls Catholics to penance and prayer to help us “open our eyes and our hearts” to the suffering of others. . . “to open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled.” It is a fasting that “shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combatting all forms of abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.”
Already last week, the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) shared the goals of the Conference in investigating, opening new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops, and advocating for more effective resolution of future complaints. These may seem to be small steps, but they have the ability to change the landscape in such a way that accountability of all – including bishops – is no longer a novel idea.
The Diocese of San Jose and all of the dioceses in this region remain committed to the welfare of children and vulnerable persons. Through “safe environment” efforts, background checks, training and updates, we work to guarantee as much as is humanly possible the safety of all entrusted to our care