By: Anne Kirby, Staff Writer
Over the last couple of decades, Catholic priests taking advantage of their roles to prey on young children has become a global concern. According to BBC News, by 2004, over 4,000 priests had faced sexual abuse allegations in the past 50 years. When faced with such a horrifying institutional issue, it is natural that we would look for someone to blame. In this case, that “someone” has been Pope Francis. The problem, though, is that sexual abuse has become ingrained in the foundation of the Catholic Church, going all the way back to 20th century Irish-Catholic-run industrial schools and orphanages. This issue is much bigger than one person, and more complicated means are necessary to address the problem than pointing fingers at Pope Francis. We are wasting our time and energy targeting an individual when the real problem lays within the underpinnings of the institution.
The main reason that a fire has been lit under the Pope is that he is positioning himself in a place of condemnation towards the accused clergy. He actually addressed the whole community of Roman Catholics to make it clear that what has been happening is a “culture of death,” and he apologized for the Church’s failure to take immediate action. He expressed the Church’s sorrow for each and every victim, admitting, “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.” The Pope’s empathetic words, implying solidarity among the people of the Roman Catholic Church, are a positive step for the people rather than an admission of guilt or responsibility. He has apologized for something on behalf of the entire community; he shows his strength as a leader who can acknowledge wrongdoings and work towards better outcomes in the future.
Critics of the Pope say that the letter calling for Francis’ resignation, drafted by a former U.S. Vatican representative by the name of Carlo Maria Viganò, indicated that Francis not only failed to take action against the clerical abuse, but also participated in covering it up. Those who want to believe that the Pope is to blame for the entirety of the failings of the Catholic Church have taken this and run with it. But have any of those people actually stopped to look at Viganò’s credibility? As a matter of fact, Francis and Viganò have had a rocky past, giving him all the reason to target Francis. Viganò was also described by the New York Times as “known for his short temper and ambition,” and, “clashing with superiors who stunted his ascent in the church and has played a key role in some of the most stunning Vatican scandals of recent times.” As a key figure in previous scandals within the Church, Viganò does not stand out to me as someone who would likely tell the cold, hard truth. And yet, allegations against the Pope and demands for his resignation have been based entirely on the testimonies of an untrustworthy man.
Ultimately, sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has been going on since the 1950’s. It is not new, and it is certainly not the fault of Pope Francis’s leadership. The pope, if anything, has done a remarkable job in responding to the situation in a thoughtful, progressive manner, just as he has done with other issues. His resignation is not only unnecessary, but would actually be a step backward in the progress of the Catholic Church as an institution.