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Promises, promises: but little progress for papal commission on abuse

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Sep 28, 2017

A week has passed since Pope Francis promised to take “the firmest measures” to stop clerical abuse. Then again, you might say that a month has passed, or three years have passed, or maybe a bit longer, since the Pope said essentially the same thing. How many times does the same promise deserve a headline?

Last week the Pope was meeting for the first time with the special commission that he had set up three years ago to take action on sexual abuse. The commission has seen defections by frustrated members, who report that the group was disorganized, underfunded, and widely ignored by other Vatican offices and many national bishops’ conferences. Even now one commission member reports that “many local churches” have established guidelines for handling abuse; some still have not.

It would be an understatement to say that progress has been slow for the papal commission. In his address to the commission, Pope Francis admitted that he regrets having overruled a decision to remove an Italian priest who had been accused of abuse—and who, restored to ministry, promptly collected new complaints. The Holy Father said that he was “learning on the job” himself.

Really? Fifteen years after the scandal exploded over the Boston archdiocese, the Pope is only just now learning that a priest who molests children cannot remain in ministry? That revelation says much more about the Vatican’s progress (or lack of same) than one more promise to “take the firmest measures.”

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Retired01 - Sep. 28, 2017 1:01 PM ET USA

    Pope Francis' learning curve appears to be flat, flat, flat. He apparently has not yet learned that answering those who want doctrinal clarity from him is part of the papal job description.