Pope gets tough!
Starting with some cardinals, Catholic priests have been in the news for the wrong reasons. They invited infamy for sexual abuse especially of minors in several parts of the world. But the Vatican had remained silent. But that has changed with Pope Francis telling those who abuse minors to hand themselves to civil justice authorities and "prepare for divine justice," in his strongest words to date on the sex abuse crisis roiling the Roman Catholic Church. In his annual speech to the Vatican's Curia, the Pope also thanked the media for exposing the sex abuse crisis and encouraged survivors to speak out. "I myself would like to give heartfelt thanks to those media professionals who were honest and objective and sought to unmask these predators and to make their victims' voices heard," the Pope said. "To those who abuse minors, I would say this, convert and hand yourself over to human justice and prepare for divine justice." The Pope was under pressure to act fast on the sex abuse crisis, following a year of continuing revelations of abuse and cover-up that put his credibility on the line. In May, the entire bishops' conference of Chile offered to resign in the wake of sexual abuse scandals there, and Francis admitted that he, too, "was part of the problem." In August, a Pennsylvania grand jury report was released detailing the horrific stories of some 300 priests who were accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 child victims since 1947. A week later, the Vatican's ex-ambassador to Washington alleged that the Pope himself knew about accusations of sexual abuse by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick for five years, but failed to remove him. The Pope responded that he "would not say any the single word" on the matter. But the action was swift and McCarrick was out. The first global meeting of bishops is now to take place at the Vatican in February to discuss sexual abuse. Given all the allegations, that meeting now becomes a decisive one for the credibility of Francis' papacy. "This coming February, the Church will restate her firm resolve to pursue unstintingly a path of purification," said Francis. "She will question, with the help of experts, how best to protect children, to avoid these tragedies, to bring healing and restoration to the victims, and to improve the training imparted in seminaries." Francis has also spoken of the difficulties faced by those who do come forward with allegations of abuse, saying "the guilty are capable of skillfully covering their tracks" even from those closest to them. "The victims too, carefully selected by their predators, often prefer silence and live in fear of shame," he predictably observed.