Pope Francis has an enormous, complex job. Still, some parts of it can’t be that complicated or difficult, especially some of the parts that relate to child safety.
In that context, here are a few questions we’ve wondered about.
—Last month, a priest in Virginia was arrested for reportedly molesting at least one child. For years, he was in charge of his diocese’s handling of all abuse reports.
How hard would it be for Pope Francis to just forbid bishops from putting priests in charge of dealing with abusive priests? There are tons of lay people who have more qualifications and who spent years studying more helpful subjects than church history or church music or church
Plus of course being parents or potential parents, these lay people would bring a different perspective to abuse issues than most clerics have or can.
In fact, let’s go a step further. How hard would it be for Pope Francis to specifically hire non-Catholics to handle abuse claims?
That would no doubt inspire considerably more confidence in the flock, knowing that outside perspectives, from people with less chance of being conflicted or biased, are looking at abuse cases. And that would also get more victims to come forward, knowing that they would be reporting to potentially more objective staffers.
—Also last month, a bishop in Australia told his lawyer to – or at least let his lawyer – insist on questioning a victim about an abortion she had.
Even worse, news accounts say that “the church accepted she was sexually assaulted by (the) priest” and her abortion, unrelated, took place “a decade after the abuse stopped.”
How hard would it be for Pope Francis to just forbid bishops from telling or letting their lawyers treat victims so viciously?
And again, one step further: How hard would it be for Pope Francis to publicly blast and discipline this bishop, and then say, “I will immediately defrock the next bishop who acts with such cruelty in court towards an abuse victim.”
—Earlier this month, a bishop in Poland told or let his lawyer “ask a court to determine whether a man who was sexually abused as a child by a priest is gay, and whether the sexual contact may have consequently been pleasurable for him.”
Yes, you read that correctly: A church lawyer wants to know an abuse victim’s sexual orientation and whether, as a youngster, he may have “enjoyed” being sexually violated.
How hard would it be for Pope Francis to denounce this, and other, savage legal maneuvers?
A step further: How hard would it be for Pope Francis to discipline this bishop, insist that he fire his lawyer and again, expressly pledge to fire any other bishop who acts like this?
Incidentally, such merciless legal tactics have been used by Catholic officials for decades. Check out this 1993 Wall Street Journal examples for several horrific US examples:
And to learn more about these cases we’ve cited, here are a few particulars: The Virginia priest is Fr. Terry Specht of the Arlington Diocese, which is headed by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge. The Polish bishop is Roman Pindel.
The Australian bishop is Peter Comensole of Melbourne and his predator priest is Fr. Francis Thorp.