The Catholic Church has long been plagued by scandals involving priests abusing children. In a letter sent on Dec. 28 but released by the Vatican only on Monday, Pope Francis tried to reach out to all priests of the Catholic Church and to draw their attention to the fact that there must be zero tolerance for sexual abuse. Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has been trying to stop the sexual abuse in the Church in order to protect children. But victims' groups are not impressed with his work and they accuse him of not holding to account bishops who tolerated sexual abuse or covering it up.
Church sexual abuse broke into the open in 2002, when it was discovered that U.S. bishops moved abusers from parish to parish instead of defrocking them. In response to the Catholic Church sexual abuse cases, Pope Francis created the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. In the past, priests who committed abuses were removed by bishops, but bishops were rarely held accountable. From 2001 to 2010 the Holy See, the central governing body of the Catholic Church, considered sex abuse allegations involving about 3,000 priests dating back up to fifty years.
“I would like us to renew our complete commitment to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst. Let us find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect in every way the lives of our children, so that such crimes may never be repeated. In this area, let us adhere, clearly and faithfully, to ‘zero tolerance’,” Francis wrote in a letter.
Many are not satisfied with Pope’s work and they think this letter is just empty words. Anne Barrett-Doyle, founder of the U.S.-based research and monitoring group BishopAccountablity.org, said in an email that the Pope's words were little more than rhetoric.
"This pope keeps proclaiming zero tolerance but doesn't enact it. He knows full well that Church law contains no zero tolerance provision. Zero tolerance is mere rhetoric. The sad fact is that the Church still has not changed its system to make zero tolerance a binding reality," she said.
In 2015, Francis ordered the trial and defrocking of a Polish archbishop accused of paying for sex with minors in the Dominican Republic. Francis also approved the establishment of a Vatican tribunal to judge bishops accused of covering up sexual abuse or failing to prevent it, but the proposal has so far stalled.
We should ask ourselves - Shouldn’t zero tolerance for such crimes always be an option, without Pope Francis assistance? And why is Church raising its voice about birth control and abortion clinics but staying silent about sexual abuse?
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