Pope Francis has done ‘too little’ on sex abuse crisis, victims say

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Activists representing the victims of predatory priests in the Catholic Church said that Pope Francis and the Vatican had failed to properly address the clergy sex abuse crisis.

Abuse survivors’ groups held a news conference in Rome to pass judgment on the Vatican’s record a year after a global bishops’ summit in which Francis promised bold action.

What has been done since is “too little and too late and still not enough,” said Matthias Katsch, a spokesman for German abuse survivors’ organisation Eckiger Tisch.

“This crisis affects the whole church worldwide. It will not end until all stories have been told and have been heard, all crimes have been solved and all victims have been compensated,” he added.

Phil Saviano, a victim and campaigner from the U.S. who helped uncover the infamous “Spotlight” abuse cover-up scandal in Boston, also addressed reporters.

Speaking on behalf of the Bishop Accountability group, he said that studies in the U.S., Australia and Germany suggest that the percentage of child molesters within the Catholic clergy is at least 5 per cent.

He called it “a highly believable number.”

At the end of last year’s summit, Francis said the Catholic Church would stop covering up the crimes of paedophile priests “as was usual in the past.”

He followed up with two key reforms: He made it compulsory for clergy to report cases of abuse or cover up to their church superiors (but not to police), and abolished Vatican secrecy laws for such cases.

But according to Anne Barrett Doyle, Co-director of Bishop Accountability, church rules are still not strict enough.

“It is entirely possible today, as it was a year ago, for a bishop to knowingly keep an abuser in ministry or return him to ministry and for neither one of them to suffer a consequence under canon law,” she said.

“It is preposterous that a global organisation that cares for millions of children still finds it OK to return a child molester to his job under certain circumstances,” Barrett Doyle said.

She predicted that “civil authorities, one country at a time,” would force church authorities to take a tougher approach, and doubted that “this pope or any pope” could put an end to impunity.

Barret Doyle also criticised the Vatican for the delayed publication of a report on the case of Theodore McCarrick, a former U.S. cardinal who has been defrocked for preying on altar boys and seminarians.

The report is expected to shed light on how McCarrick’s misconduct was allowed to continue for years, in spite of them being an open secret, before he was sanctioned in 2018-2019.

The extent to which Francis shielded the disgraced cardinal from punishment before finally taking action against him has been the subject of intense controversy.

Earlier this month Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s second-in-command, said he expected the McCarrick dossier to be released “in the near future.”