Pope defends accused bishop, denounces accusers. The pattern is familiar.

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jan 19, 2018

In the bad old days, when Catholic parents reported that a priest had abused their child, and/or that the pastor was aware of the abuse, the bishop might scold them, saying that their complaints were nonsense, saying that they had no proof, accusing them of calumny. The bishop might make these harsh statements, in the bad old days, even if he was fully aware of charges against the priest—even if he had encouraged the pastor to resign because of his mishandling of the situation.

These are the bad old days.

But in the bad old days the faithful parents still had some reasons to hope for justice:

  • They could hope that a petition to Rome would reach the ears of the Pope. But now it’s the Pope who is denouncing the accusers.
  • They could hope that the secular courts would provide satisfaction. But the secular courts in Chile have already rendered their verdict—acknowledging the strength of the accusations—and the Pope is not swayed.
  • They could hope that mass-media outlets would investigate their claims, putting more pressure on the bishop to take them seriously. But now the mass media still give Pope Francis the friendliest of coverage.

In the bad old days, a bishop could dismiss and insult aggrieved parents just because he could: because no one held him accountable.

These are the bad old days.

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: extremeCatholic - Jan. 23, 2018 8:25 AM ET USA

    From 2013: For the third time in as many weeks, Pope Francis has warned not to speak ill of others, and again mentioned the devil in another striking homily this morning in the chapel of the Vatican's Santa Martha residence. Calumny, he said, is worse than sin and is the direct expression of Satan. "We are all sinners; all of us. We all commit sins. But calumny is something else. It is of course a sin, too, but it is something more,” he said, according to a Vatican Radio report.

  • Posted by: Canonigo Regular - Jan. 22, 2018 7:40 PM ET USA

    I do not know the facts of this case, only what is being said. Phil's analysis makes it sound as though this bishop was the bishop of the accused priest, but this bishop was not a bishop when the criminal abuse was committed by his friend; he was a simple priest. It seems likely to me that if a priest abused a minor he would surely hide that from his priest friends. Is there evidence that the friend (now a bishop) knew of the abuse? If not, why is the now-bishop not considered to be innocent?

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Jan. 21, 2018 3:52 PM ET USA

    So much for "Who am I to judge?" Better said: "Who am I not to pick and choose?"