Pope Francis has condemned sex abuse and clerical cover-ups in a letter to all Catholics. This comes after a grand jury in the US last week released a report revealing seven decades of abuse by over 300 priests against 1,000 minors in Pennsylvania.
Sputnik discussed this with David Clohessy, former executive director of SNAP — the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Sputnik: What’s your take on the message shared by the pope recently? What impact can it have on this massive and rather disturbing issue?
David Clohessy: This is the latest of long series of papal apologies and papal pledges to be better and each time a pope comments on this continuing crisis he sounds a little bit more remorseful, a little bit more sincere, but at the end of the day nothing changes, he refuses to take tangible, common sense steps that will expose predators, protect kids and stop this horror.
Sputnik: There are many media reports on sex abuse in churches, but what is really been done to resolve this issue? This is the most important question, this is what you’re involved with at SNAP I would imagine?
David Clohessy: Yes you’re right, the good news is that much has been done to safeguard kids, the bad news is that nearly all of it is being done outside of the church hierarchy; in other words victims are becoming more brave and more likely to speak up; parents are more willing to believe their kids when they report abuse; families are going to the police increasingly and prosecutors rather than going to church officials; journalists are more inclined to really dig deep and try to unearth these secrets; so a lot has been done but bishops sadly continue to follow the same public relations playbook.
Everything they say or most everything they say pounds the purge, but again, their day-to-day behavior remains essentially unchanged over decades. I know it’s a harsh assessment, I know it may be hard for people to accept, but I’ve been in this struggle daily for 30 years, and it’s really, really painful to see how little has changed inside the church hierarchy.
Sputnik: I was just going to actually make that point because, obviously, these are not isolated incidents, they seem to be taking repetition over the years and nothing seems to be changing — the question I’ve got is how have things changed over the years, but it doesn’t look as though anything has changed, has it?
David Clohessy: In truth, in the majority of countries across the globe — no. In some of the Western democracies where you see a more independent judiciary and more vigorously funded law enforcement, again, secular authorities have started to step up to the plate, but over the years church officials have just become smarter and more determined to keep a lid on this scandal — dreadfully discouraging.
Sputnik: In your view are reforms needed in the church and if yes, what kind?
David Clohessy: The pope can simply fire bishops who conceal abuse — that’s never happened. A handful of these 5,000 bishops across the planet have resigned when their complicity has become so widely known that it’s a huge embarrassment to the church, but that’s just a handful, virtually never has a bishop been removed, demoted or even disciplined by the Vatican because he did crimes and moved predators and enabled more horror to be done to innocent kids, so that’s step one.
The pope can also order every bishop on the planet to post on this website the names of the known predators, but instead of doing that the pope and his allies in the church continue to hide the identities of these dangerous men. Many, many steps could be done, remember, the church is a hierarchy and the pope is a monarch, he has nearly limitless powers but needs to take decisive action.
The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of David Clohessy and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.