sex abuse scandals and
THE NEW POPE
MARCI A. HAMILTON
is a professor of law at Cardozo School of Law, and the author
Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children,
which was just published in paperback with a new Preface.
new Roman Catholic Pope, formerly Archbishop of Buenos Aires,
Jorge Mario Bergoglio, chose the name Francis. It is the first
time a Pope has chosen that name, and it is instructive to examine
the Francis he intended. For many in the survivors’ movement,
there is an understandable yearning that it is St. Francis of
Assisi, but that seems unlikely to me. Pope Francis is a proud
Jesuit, is known as a gifted evangelizer, and is the first Pope
from outside of Europe, all of which would make it far more
likely that he is choosing the name and path of the great Jesuit
missionary, St. Francis Xavier.
was known for his extraordinary travels in the 16th Century
to multiple countries, and for his proselytizing. Here is how
the Catholic Encyclopedia summarizes his accomplishments:
is the profile of a man who would labour to expand the power
and reach of the Church, and would travel the world to do so.
By choosing St. Francis Xavier, the Pope (and likely the conclave
as well) are pointing to the global reach of the Church, and
the need for outreach and mission work across the globe. By
contrast, St. Francis Assisi was a gentle, loving man who venerated
poverty and the poverty-stricken; ministered to all beings,
including the smallest animals; and was never ordained as a
priest. For the survivors of clergy child sex abuse, he can
be a symbol of safety and peace, and, even more importantly,
someone who was not a part of the machinery of the Church. While
Pope Francis has been an advocate for the poor in Argentina,
he has been very much an insider, who, sadly, was part of the
Argentinian Church when it apparently cooperated with the brutal
national government of the 1970s.
THEIR LEGACY, AND CHILD SEX ABUSE
is the first Jesuit Pope in history. The Jesuits are a learned
order, the members of which take great pride in their intellectual
independence. They have been respected for centuries for their
contributions to scholarly and literary debates. I was pleasantly
surprised when they published one of my articles in their magazine,
America, even though it was obvious that many bishops were pressuring
them not to. Indeed, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, then-Archbishop
of Milwaukee, told me at a legislative hearing in Madison, Wisconsin,
on statutes of limitations reform legislation (he testified
against; I testified in favour) that he had told them they should
not publish the piece. And yet they still did so. (I don’t
want to get too carried away here, as America did publish a
response to my piece in which the California Catholic Conference
of Bishops called me a “bitter woman”).
Jesuits are rightly known for being smart, gutsy and independent.
These are great qualities in a leader, to be sure, and excellent
qualities for an institution that desperately needs a new direction
Jesuits are so highly respected among orders that many believed,
when the sex abuse scandal first broke, that this would be the
one Order that would not be touched by it. Not so. Like every
other Order and Diocese, the Jesuits have had their share of
serious problems with clergy child sex abuse, and they have
shown themselves to be as capable of covering up abuse as any
other organization -- as this news story, and this one, and
this one all attest.
of the most egregious examples was their failure to stop Fr.
Donald McGuire, who abused many children on trips overseas trips.
selection of Pope Francis, therefore, is hardly free from the
sex-abuse scandal. But no one to be considered was going to
avoid it, because the problem is a malignant cancer that has
grown on the inside of the Church, which has not yet been able
to force itself to undergo the painful, but necessary, therapy
to cure it: full disclosure in the context of civil justice
for all of the world to see. Its resistance simply fuels the
cancer and leaves no bishop untouched.
ABUSE IN ARGENTINA
is not a lot known about Pope Francis’s dealings with
clergy child sex abuse in Argentina, which may have made him
the best choice for the job, among others with much longer clergy
child sex abuse resumes. For example, fellow Argentinian Cardinal
Leonardo Sandri was a top contender, but he was not selected,
likely in part due to his close relationship with Cardinal Soldano
of Rome, who was deeply involved in the long-term cover up of
abuse by the despicable Marcel Maciel.
equally unpalatable choice would have been the otherwise jovial
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, whose payoffs of abusers
in Milwaukee, and steely and heartless opposition to legislative
reform to help victims in the Wisconsin and New York legislatures
will forever mar his resume. They all know that he sits on the
largest cache of still-secret archives of clergy sex abuse in
a single Archdiocese in the United States.
of course, there has been abuse in Argentina -- as this report,
and this one evidence.
top contender Cardinal Ouellet of Canada, who has been an outspoken
critic of the Church’s handling of clergy sex abuse, Pope
Francis has not distinguished himself by his empathy or concern
for the Church’s victims. The choice of Ouellet would
have sent a message to survivors and believers everywhere that
the Church had finally put the issue front and center, and was
intending to deal with it. In contrast, this choice seems to
be just another stitch in the cloak of secrecy.
you put together all the pieces of the puzzle, it sadly but
not very surprisingly appears that the cardinals chose a leader
who is more focused on recruiting and retaining more believers,
than he is on righting past (and continuing) wrongs. They chose
evangelization and perpetuation of the institution over cutting
out the cancer rotting within the institution. Can you blame
them for that? Yes, we all can -- and should.
in the end, the choice of a Pope, with its antiquated and secretive
rituals, is irrelevant to justice for the victims of clergy
child sex abuse. Justice will only come, as we have learned
so well over the years, through secular legal channels, including
the prosecution of perpetrators and criminal wrongdoers in every
institution; investigations (by prosecutors and the media);
lawsuits; and legal reform, especially statute-of-limitations
American Cardinals will now return to the United States and,
in all likelihood, will persist with their heartless fight against
legal reform for victims. And victims will continue to beseech
their legislators for a mere chance at justice. The victims
will win in the end, because righteousness is on their side.