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On sex abuse, the Vatican still sends badly mixed signals

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 17, 2018

  • The New York Times notes that on the very day when he apologized to Chileans for the Church’s handling of the sex-abuse scandal, Pope Francis concelebrated Mass with Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, who was named by the Pope to head the Osorno diocese despite complaints about his long friendship with a notorious abuser. In fact, last week the Associated Press revealed that Bishop Barros had actually offered his resignation because of the scandal. But the Pope did not accept that resignation. Instead he promoted the embattled bishop, and announced that his critics in Chile were “carried away by the garbage everybody says.”
  • On the day that the Pope boarded his flight to Chile, the Vatican announced that Cardinal Roger Mahony would act as the Pope’s personal envoy at the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This is the same Cardinal Mahony who, in early 2013, was relieved of all public duties in the Los Angeles archdiocese by his successor, Archbishop José Gomez, because of his gross mishandling of the sex-abuse scandal. It is extremely unlikely that Archbishop Gomez would have made that announcement without consulting the Vatican. But a few days after Archbishop Gomez took that dramatic action, things changed in Rome; Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement. In just a few more weeks Cardinal Mahony was back in action, participating in the conclave, explaining that “the highest folks at the Vatican” wanted him to attend. Since that time he has been accorded all the dignity that is normally enjoyed by a Prince of the Church—and in case you hadn’t noticed, Archbishop Gomez still does not have a red hat.
  • One month ago today, on December 17, the special Vatican commission charged with responding to the sex-abuse crisis formally ceased to exist. Everyone assumes that Pope Francis will renew the commission’s mandate—some day, when he gets around to it.

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 See full bio.

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