The recent surfacing of multiple sexual assault allegations in the Roman Catholic Church community have caused much distress among those in authority over the church. However, these allegations are not a new phenomenon. Hundreds of accounts of sexual abuse among Church members looking for justice to be served have recently filled the media outlets. Pope Francis, coming up on five years serving as the pope, has been called into question about his responsibility for the ongoing misconduct that has run rampant throughout the Catholic community for over seven decades.
In a report from Aug. 14, 2018, amounting to over 1,500 pages, the Pennsylvania Grand Jury revealed how a two-year investigation has unmasked over 1,000 credible sexual assault allegations involving more than 300 priests. The German Catholic Church released a report on Sept. 12, 2018 regarding the ongoing sexual abuse in which roughly 3,677 people were assaulted by clergy. Each day, another news report is published regarding the decades of sexual assault in what is thought to be the “Home of God.” As thousands of victims cry out for justice against their abusers, the media directs their attention towards Francis for his response. As head of the Catholic church, Francis is directly responsible for enforcing proper repercussions against the sexual predators. For decades, the corrupt clergymen have been granted immunity from their actions. Rather than being condemned from the church, they are granted promotions, which raise them to higher authority. However, one’s religious standing should not allow immunity from the law. Justice must be served and Francis must take responsibility.
In the wake of such allegations, Francis is now faced with the ultimate decision: stand up or step down. While Francis has publically shared his sentiments regarding the ongoing sexual abuse, we must move beyond thoughts and prayers, and now turn to action and justice. How can one restore their trust in God when the individuals tasked with spreading His word are wrought by sin?
Catholic Church authority figures have a history of postponing taking action against these excessive amounts of sexual abuse accusations, but now there is a sign of hope on the horizon. On Thursday, Sept. 13, 2013, Francis met with U.S. Bishops in the Vatican to discuss this looming issue. They hoped to come to an agreement on a plan of action to not only help the victims who have come forth with their stories, but to also put an end to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church ministry. In response to a recent accusation against ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was removed from the ministry back in July due to confirmed accusations that he groped a teenager, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, had said that he wants Francis “to authorize a full-fledged Vatican investigation into the scandal” because the cover-up of the event deserves answers.
The meeting took place, and the Pope officially accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia Diocese due to accusations of sexually assaulting adults, as well as for past accusations of molesting children, which he denied at the time. Fulfilling DiNardo’s wishes, a formal investigation of Bransfield’s charges was requested of the archbishop of Baltimore by the Pope. Other actions that were taken as a result of this meeting were the removal from the ministry of both a priest from the Galveston-Houston archdiocese and a bishop of West Virginia’s Catholic Church due to sexual assault accusations. DiNardo shared some words about the meeting with the Pope and other authority members of the Catholic Church saying, “We shared with Francis our situation in the United States — how the Body of Christ is lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse. He listened very deeply from the heart. It was a lengthy, fruitful, and good exchange.” This implies that the meeting was successful in many ways. It is realistic to say that one meeting is not going to fix the problem of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church ministry, but it will allow for steps to be taken to move towards ending it once and for all.
Pope Francis, it is time to take action against these corrupt abusers. Allow justice to be served, and peace to be restored. It is your job, as the leader of the Catholic church, to allow individuals to feel safe in God’s home. God does not want anyone to live in fear, and neither should you.