Church still incapable of saying there is no excuse for a priest abusing a child

Fergus Finlay Irish Examiner

Title: Church still incapable of saying there is no excuse for a priest abusing a child
Author: Fergus Finlay
Publisher: Irish Examiner
Date: 08JUN2021
They may have attracted positive PR for the Church, but the new measures for dealing with clerical abuse are a million miles away from being good enough.

I don’t know whether he lacks the will or the courage, or whether he is incapable of asserting real and moral authority. I don’t know whether he has been undermined from within, or is just an old man incapable of seeing anything resembling a bigger picture.

I don’t know whether he or the people around him still regard the institution as more important than the people it is supposed to serve, but sometimes abuses. Or maybe it’s just — and I don’t know the answer to this either — he and those around him think we’re all fools.

Whatever the answer to those questions, I don’t believe it is possible to read the most recent changes to canon law — the law of the Catholic Church — without feeling utterly let down by Pope Francis. The Pope who promised so much, but has changed as little as possible.

I’m not a Catholic, but I know the importance of the Church, and its power for good (or evil) in the world. Reading the Pope’s pronouncements this past week is like feeling conned and cheated by someone for whom you had a genuine feeling of respect.

Mind you, it has to be admitted that the Pope and his people do good public relations. 

When the changes in canon law were announced last week, the RTÉ News website headlined it “Pope updates canon law to address paedophilia by priests”. The Irish Times used language such as “sweeping reform” and “the most extensive revision in four decades”.

And that was just here. “Pope widens Church law to target sexual abuse of adults by priests and laity,” said The New York Times. The BBC had “Vatican laws changed to toughen sexual abuse punishment”.

Mission accomplished, you might say. At last, the Catholic Church is getting to grips with its past. Everyone interested in reporting on the story was told that this was the result of years of intensive work — 11 years in the preparation, inputs from senior lawyers including experts in criminal law. It could hardly be more thorough, more far-reaching, more exhaustive, more reforming.

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