Last week Pope Francis endeared himself to liberals and champions of the middle class everywhere when he lit into the evils of unfettered capitalism. The reaction from people on the left was predictable in its embrace of his criticisms of Trickle Down Economics. My own reaction was that I appreciated the sentiments, and he most certainly was not wrong to criticize the Economic Mythology that is Reaganomics, but that if The Vatican were truly all-in on ending poverty they would start appraising and selling off some of their “treasures” and spend the revenues generated directly on helping the poor and critically indebted.
Within my piece about Pope Francis’ comments I also mentioned that labeling this man as a progressive was largely a fallacy. He still holds antiquated views on the roles of women in the church and in society in general. He may say that Catholics are too obsessed with homosexuality and abortion, but ask him when he plans on changing the dogma his institution peddles about those subjects and he’ll clam up. I also mentioned the whole “rampant sexual abuse of children under the watchful eyes of the Church” thing, and a story out of Minnesota this week completely validates that point.
You see, the archdiocese of Minnesota last week released the names of thirty – count ‘em — thirty priests who had been accused of sexual abuse of minors. They released the names after mounting public pressure for their handling of sexual abuse charges under their authority. Perhaps as evidence of the systemic problems with the handling of these accusations within the inner-workings of the church, it took a court order to force the archdiocese’s hand and to release the names of the accused priests. The archdiocese stated that many of the name son the list belonged to priests who no longer worked for the archdiocese. That makes sense since the allegations mostly pertained to events that took place between the 1950’s and the 1980’s, and some of the men on the list are dead now.
To me, the fact that it took a court order to force the archdiocese to release the names of priests in some cases around sixty years after they were accused is the most damning thing about this story. It speaks to the horrific way in which the alleged victims of sexual abuse were treated, and to the disgusting cover-up that the entire Catholic Church has been a part of since day one. Stories like this prove that it’s really awesome to be a crusader for the poor, and to take on the powers of the monolith known as Capitalism, but it’s a criminally incomplete picture of the church to paint them as such without even mentioning the elephant in the room, especially when the elephant is the rape and sexual assault of minors.
In response, Pope Francis ordered a new group be formed of experts to confront the issue of sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church. That’s most certainly a good first step, but clearly a commission of internal employees of the Church isn’t going to equate to an independent investigation, which is what this situation has called for decades, maybe even centuries for all we know. No group, no matter how much good they do in other areas, should be allowed to cover up crimes as heinous as sexual assault on minors. Yet, due to their crazy wealth and influence, that’s exactly what the Catholic Church has repeatedly been allowed to do.
If Pope Francis is truly serious about reforming the Catholic Church, as he does seem to be at times, then this is one subject that simply cannot afford to be overlooked anymore. It’s the year 2013 and we’re still talking about child molesting that took place in the church decades ago. Make no mistake, the victims of those abuses still feel the emotional scars of being violated by someone they were supposed to trust in the most intimate and spiritual way.
The commission that Francis has ordered needs to be open and transparent, not in the way that the Obama Administration was supposed to be (*cough* drones *cough*). There is absolutely no point in the Pope ordering the formation of a group that will conduct secret, non-disclosed investigations that never wind-up with any results the public can verify. Think of it this way — The Vatican is literally its own sovereign nation, which makes the thousands and thousands of churches all across the world their embassies. Imagine if the world knew for a fact that the government of say…Uzbekibekibekibekistan (h/t Herman Cain) was willfully covering up the rampant sexual abuse of children in their embassies all across the globe. What kind of international effort do you think would be levied at Uzbekibekibekibekistan? The U.N. would not sit idly by, nor would The United States government if a foreign embassy in Minnesota was part of a vast cover-up of such crimes.
Real reform on this issue would mean the Catholic Church taking a hard line stance. It would mean a new requirement that all archdioceses immediately turn over any and all allegations of child molestation to the proper authorities. In this country we have a strong belief in a metaphorical wall that separates our government from our Gods. I’m here to tell you that no metaphorical wall was built to protect those who would rape children from the punishment they so richly deserve.
So it’s “put up or shut up” time for this newly christened Liberal Pope. Let’s see just how progressive Francis is, shall we? If this commission he’s ordering actually works to open up the Church’s policies when it comes to charges of sexual misconduct to the proper legal authorities who should be handling them, then you’ll find me at the front of the line waiting to shake his hand. If instead this new commission is just yet another attempt to placate the masses while the cover-up continues, then I expect to see every single liberal and left-leaning American who sang his praises last week to be the first in line to slap him with a fish to the face.
If liberals are disgusted by the actions of Penn State and Jerry Sandusky, they damned sure better be outraged by what has gone on in the Catholic Church for a long, long time. They damned sure better be willing to get in line to criticize the Pope should he show no more effort in exposing the wolves in his flock. Granted, I am not a soothsayer in the least. Perhaps he will make good with this new commission, and prove himself to be just as much an honorable critic of his own organization as he was the Actor Who Never Should Have Been President. But you’ll pardon me if I don’t rush out to Hallmark and buy a “Thanks for ending the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church” card just yet.
Ronald Reagan’s economic contribution no doubt left a deep scar on society. It has helped create an absolute chasm between the upper crust and the rest of us. It imbued generations of conservatives with a twisted notion of how economics works, and with a fantasy world expectation of how the richest of the rich behave when their pockets are overflowing with cash. I am no fan of the man. He was elected before I was born, and I had no say in his getting a second term. But I daresay that the doddering bastard wouldn’t have stood for the rampant rape of children and subsequent cover-up of those action under his watch, even with the horrific specter of starting illegal wars on his resume.
Your move, Pope Frank. Make it a good one.