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The Silence of Pope Francis

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There is a first time for everything, and last Thursday the Vatican was pushed to admit in public that it still does not force priests to report child sex crimes to authorities. Not only is this shameful, it is unacceptable. A UN panel held The Holy See accountable in a public interrogation regarding child abuse, and scrutinized the Vatican's disgraceful and contemptuous record on dealing with child sexual abuse and torture. Although most people focused on the UN commission's interrogation in Geneva that day, some spotted a curious observation in Rome. Time magazine's Person of the Year, Pope Francis, or Jorge Mario Bergoglio, announced that these "scandals are the shame of the Church," while a man whom accompanied him was Los Angeles Archbishop Emeritus, Cardinal Roger Mahony, a repugnant man who supervised more than 200 known pedophile priests with 500 known victims to whom he paid $720 million. It makes one think: What has this new Pope done about the sex abuse crisis?

The day following, the Associated Press reported that 400 priests were defrocked in the years 2011 and 2012. According to AP, a document was specifically prepared from data the Vatican collected to defend itself before the UN committee. And what of these criminal defrocked individuals, you might ask? Well, we don't know. They remain free and at liberty to abuse again. Their identities are unknown, as are their whereabouts, and the nature of their crimes. Of them we know not much. Pope Francis has done nothing to help arm authorities with information they would need to apprehend these criminals.

A 2004 John Jay study identified 10,667 victim allegations made in the period from 1950-2002, which number increased to 15,235 through 2009. Many victims of sexual assault never report their victimization, and observers have estimated that there may be as many as 100,000 total victims in the United States alone.

On 1 July, the United Nation's Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) sent a request to the pope for "detailed information on all cases of child sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy, brothers, or nunnery" from the past fifteen years, and set 1 November as a deadline for a reply. Missing the deadline, on 4 December, Pope Francis responded saying it was not the way his government practiced to "disclose information on specific cases unless requested to do so by another country as part of legal proceedings" and "that the Vatican can provide information only about known and alleged child sex crimes that have happened on Vatican property."

Every bishop is appointed by the Pope. Every bishop can be removed by the Pope. Every priest is approved by a bishop or religious superior. Every bishop or religious superior can be removed by the Pope. Therefore, papal authority and influence is direct. The Vatican is directly involved. The Pope's ability to deal with these crimes is being underplayed and distractions are created to deter the public from knowledge of the Vatican's negligence. Church officials have a vast trove of information about these criminals, and also about those of whom they are being protected by. Simply, they merely have to give such information to the police. The recent appointment of a panel to investigate crimes throughout the church distracts the public from the vast swath of information he has and refuses to hand over.

Pope Francis appears accessible, tender, and compassionate. Always willing to help the poor and the marginalised. Worldwide attention he has garnered. When it comes to victims of sexual abuse and torture by members of the church, however, he is suspiciously and oddly silent.

A few days ago, Pope Francis blatantly refused a Polish prosecutor's request to extradite Polish Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, from the Vatican to the Dominican Republic to face charges of sexual abuse, filed by five Dominican boys. Pope Francis sequestered Wesolowski out of Dominican Republic this past August before the public or law enforcement officials even became aware of his crimes. Wesolowski is the highest-ranking Vatican official to be investigated for sex abuse, and Pope Francis' refusal to extradite him to face these charges is depressed of any justice nor decency.

Of his ten months at the helm, Pope Francis' most significant and deplorable action in response to the abuse crisis, was his re-appointment in September 2013, of Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the office of the Holy See that has dealt with all sexual abuse cases. Even despite the fact that this man is a well known enabler of a convicted pedophile priest. This position as Prefect of the CDF, was also once held by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and of whom I wrote back in September 2012.

When Müller was appointed bishop of Regensburg in 2002, he inherited the case of Fr. Peter Kramer, a priest convicted of sexually abusing two boys, ages nine and twelve, in a village church in 1999. Kramer got three years probation on the very condition that he not work with any children. When Müller became bishop, Kramer was working with children in the parish of Riekhofen, and when Kramer's probation expired, Müller promoted him. Talk about insult to injury. More allegations surfaced, and Kramer was convicted once again. The conviction was intentionally hidden by not only that scumbag priest, but also the man Pope Francis appointed to oversee child abuse. One must ask, if they are a morally serious person, what on earth is Pope Francis thinking?

In 2009 and 2010, when Pope Francis was president of the Argentine bishops' conference, he intervened in the case of a priest convicted for child molestation. Taking a more backstage role by leading a report. The now Pope had dealings with Father Julio César Grassi, a convicted sex offender, and his efforts to discredit young victims in some ways within the report that was drawn up, raise fundamental questions about the Holy See's current willingness to support and protect children and bring their abusers to justice. Grassi was arrested for child molestation in 2002, following the shocking broadcast of a TV exposé regarding his alleged abuse of five boys. In June 2009, he was convicted of the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old boy. A report done by Bergoglio, vigorously asserted Grassi's innocence and reportedly denied even the prevalence of child sexual abuse itself. Grassi is still free and still a priest, this being possible as a result of this report.

The Holy See's recent admission of 4,000 reports of sexual abuse in ten years are damning for Bergoglio's assertion of there being no abusive priests during his 15-year tenure as archbishop of Buenos Aires. And his silence during this time silence speaks volumes.

The Holy See continues to condone the practice of not reporting abusive priests to law enforcement, they even admit it in public last Thursday. With the authority and power it exercises over all Catholic dioceses and religious orders, the Holy See could protect children in every country from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. It instead continues to prioritize the rights of accused clergy and the image of the church over the rights of children. Pope Francis remains silent, evasive, and as a result, dangerous. Perhaps he should answer a few questions himself.

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