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Pope Francis honored Cardinal Godfried Danneels (2nd from left) by letting him stand alongside the pope on the balcony on the night of his election on March 13, 2013.

May 9, 2018 (CatholicCulture.org) – One step forward, two steps back. One excellent statement about a no-nonsense commitment to fighting sexual abuse, then a public act that suggests the issue is still not a top priority.

Chilean abuse victims were moved and encouraged by their private meetings with Pope Francis last week. Then on May 5, when the Pontiff joined a public celebration for the 50th anniversary of the Neocatechumenal Way, Archbishop Anthony Apuron – who was only recently convicted of abuse by a Vatican tribunal – was seated on the stage near the Pontiff.

True, Archbishop Apuron has appealed his conviction, and still proclaims his innocence. But he is one of only two archbishops ever found guilty of sexual abuse – not merely of ignoring evidence of abuse, but of molesting boys himself. Why would the Vatican give him a prominent role in a public ceremony, just a few weeks after announcing his conviction?

Shortly after his election to the papacy, Benedict XVI gave his staff instructions that they should never provide Father Marcial Maciel with a chance to be seen alongside the new Pope; the founder of the Legionaries of Christ was quietly frozen out of papal events. And that was long before the public disclosure of Maciel's abuses. But now Archbishop Apuron (who will be stripped of that title, if the tribunal's verdict is upheld) has his photo op with the Pope – the same Pope who, a week earlier, had been begging Chilean victims for forgiveness, acknowledging that “I was part of the problem.”

Sadly, what journalists said about the American bishops in 2002 applies to Vatican officials today: They still don't get it.

Published with permission from CatholicCulture.org.