- There is a recent photo of Pope Francis doing the rounds on social media that shows him walking alone, without security people or a private secretary, across a Vatican courtyard. In the early days of his pontificate, it would have been seen as Francis breaking through the stuffy conventions of the Vatican: being his own man. Five years on, it is instead viewed as symbolic of Francis’s loneliness. Here is a man struggling to find allies or support from the Catholic faithful in his stalled efforts to reform the church and failing attempts to tackle the abuse crisis.
- The pope has been up against an intransigent church bureaucracy. Vatican officials have proved unwilling to cooperate with the commission; nor has it been furnished with enough resources. But above all, there has been cultural resistance within the church over abuse. The clerical caste is one shaped by obedience and a deep fear of sullying the reputation of the church. The relationship of bishop and priest is a paternal one; if the priest errs, the bishop may focus on forgiveness of the miscreant rather than punishment of an abuser, while his greatest focus is on avoiding publicity. But the church is now reaping what it sowed: like long-festering sores, the suppressed scandals are erupting everywhere.
- There must be some leeway; the church operates across the world, including in totalitarian states where a fair criminal trial is unlikely for the accused. But some standards regarding inquiries and treatment of victims must surely be possible, as well as clear guidance on assessment of recruits to the priesthood. And the exit door for bishops needs to change. ... We Catholics deserve this. Especially the children the church failed to protect.