VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) –– In his March prayer intention for abuse victims, Pope Francis has highlighted how “the Church cannot try to hide the tragedy of abuse of any kind,” in remarks which appeared to ignore his own considerable record of alleged coverup for a number of clerical abusers.
“In response to cases of abuse, especially to those committed by members of the Church, it’s not enough to ask for forgiveness,” began Francis, in his newly released March video for the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.
“Asking for forgiveness is necessary,” he said, “but it is not enough. Asking for forgiveness is good for the victims, but they are the ones who have to be ‘at the center’ of everything.”
Francis called for “concrete actions” to take place in order to “repair the horrors” of abuse, although he did not point to any concrete actions in particular:
Their pain and their psychological wounds can begin to heal if they find answers – if there are concrete actions to repair the horrors they have suffered and to prevent them from happening again.
Continuing, the Argentinian Pontiff stated that the Catholic Church could not “try to hide” instances of abuse, nor could any other institution. Francis said:
The Church cannot try to hide the tragedy of abuse of any kind. Nor when the abuse takes place in families, in clubs, or in other types of institutions.
Instead, he called on the Church to “serve as a model to help solve the issue and bring it to light in society and in families.” Part of this would involve the Church offering “safe spaces for victims to be heard, supported psychologically, and protected,” said Francis.
“Let us pray for those who have suffered because of the wrongs done to them from members of the Church; may they find within the Church herself a concrete response to their pain and suffering,” he closed.
READ: Priests found guilty of sex abuse of Argentina deaf children in case ignored by Pope Francis
Praising Francis, the Pope’s Video network highlighted his actions since 2014, which have, according to the press release, advanced the Church’s handling of sex abuse cases. This included his establishing of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and making various public statements about the harms of sexual abuse.
Commenting on the Pope’s video, Father Frédéric Fornos S.J., the International Director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, stated that “the Pope wants the Catholic Church to pray during the month of March for the victims abuses of power and of conscience, and of sexual abuse, to ‘awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care’ and to fight with determination against every kind and form of abuse.”
The cases of McCarrick, Zanchetta and Rupnik
Yet while Pope Francis decried any attempt to “hide” sexual abuse, his own record does not provide evidence of the transparency which he calls for. Francis has previously blamed the sex abuse crisis of minors on the “plague of clericalism” – while not mentioning clerical homosexuality – but has not commented on his own handling of clerics accused of abuse, including ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta.
READ: Pope reportedly intervened to lift excommunication of sexually active, abusive Jesuit priest
Indeed, the long-awaited McCarrick report, released in November 2020, revealed that, contrary to Francis’ statements, he had been informed of the immoral behaviors of Theodore McCarrick but did not act upon them.
Summarizing the McCarrick report, Dr. Maike Hickson observed how the text confirmed that:
Pope Francis did know about the sex abuse allegations against McCarrick and that the Vatican had taken steps, from 2006 on, to remove him from the public, by telling him to move into a more remote residence and to hold back in his public appearances and travels. Pope Francis chose not to follow up.
The relationship between Francis and the disgraced Bishop Zanchetta also questions the Pontiff’s commitment to transparency on abuse cases. In March last year, Zanchetta was sentenced to four and half years in prison after having been found guilty of sexually abusing two seminarians.
READ: Examining the timeline of Pope Francis’ alleged cover-up of bishop imprisoned for sexual abuse
Prior to this, Francis notably employed great leniency with Zanchetta. When the bishop was summoned to Rome in 2015 after “nude selfies” of him were found on his phone, Francis swiftly accepted the bishop’s claim that he had been the subject of a phone hack.
Numerous signed sworn testimonies from priests in Zanchetta’s Orán diocese then confirmed the existence of the selfies on Zanchetta’s phone and his “strange attitude” towards seminarians, after which the bishop abruptly left his diocese for “ill health.” He soon arrived in the Vatican in a position Francis specially created for him: as an advisor to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA), ranking third in the Curial department and having jurisdiction over various properties owned by the Holy See.
READ: Pope Francis calls for ‘zero tolerance’ on sex abuse, is silent on his own permissiveness
The Vatican even refused to send requested files from its own canonical trial of the bishop to assist the civil trial in his native Argentina.
In more recent months, Francis’ credibility on the issue has been further rocked by the case of fellow Jesuit Father Marko Ivan Rupnik. Rupnik was accused of psychologically and sexually abusing religious sisters in an order for which he was a co-founder. In a separate offense, Rupnik was also automatically excommunicated and found guilty by the CDF’s court of absolving in confession a woman with whom he had sexual relations.
READ: Disgraced Jesuit gave homily to Papal household weeks after investigators found he absolved sexual ‘accomplice’
The Pope has been accused of having direct involvement in the case, and even of intervening within “a few hours” to overturn the excommunication. Francis recently denied his involvement in the case, a move described by Messa in Latino – which has been leading the coverage of the Rupnik case – as “lying diplomatically.”
In comments provided to LifeSite, Damian Thompson (associate editor of The Spectator) questioned “what the former women religious who allege they were grotesquely abused by the Pope’s friend Fr. Marko Rupnik would make of this prayer intention.”
“Francis could have waived the canonical statute of limitations to allow prosecution of Rupnik, but chose not to. Likewise, the victims of another papal favorite, Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, who was sentenced to imprisonment in Argentina for abuse of seminarians that Francis knew about but apparently ignored.
Thompson argued that “the shamelessness of this prayer intention should anger anyone who knows about Francis’s long record of mishandling (to put it mildly) abuse cases involving his allies.”
Echoing these thoughts, Michael Hichborn, the founder and president of the Lepanto Institute, stated that “it is very hard to take him seriously or believe he is sincere when he has routinely protected and defended known sexual predators like Fr. Marko Rupnik.”
In comments provided to LifeSiteNews, Hichborn warned that “platitudes, clasped hands and concerned faces” did not lead to actual results.
Pope Francis opens his video by saying ‘asking for forgiveness is necessary, but it is not enough,’ and then declares that ‘The Church cannot try to hide the tragedy of abuse.’ While what he said is true, it is very hard to take him seriously or believe he is sincere when he has routinely protected and defended known sexual predators like Fr. Marko Rupnik.
“He even re-instituted Cardinal Theodore McCarrick,” said Hichborn, “despite having firsthand knowledge that Pope Benedict [XVI] had imposed canonical sanctions on him for sexual predation.”
When is Pope Francis going to ask forgiveness for accusing the actual victims of Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta of ‘calumny?’ Pope Francis says, asking for forgiveness is not enough. Well, neither are platitudes, clasped hands and concerned faces mingled with promises for prayer.
“If Pope Francis means business about ending sexual abuse in the Church, he can start by putting an end to sexual perversion in the episcopacy and the clergy by laicizing ALL ordained ministers who are or who promote homosexuality in any way, shape or form,” added Hichborn.