Today the United States observes National Sanctity of Human Life Day! As President Trump’s proclamation for this day says, we mark this “to affirm the truth that all life is sacred, that every person has inherent dignity and worth, and that no class of people should ever be discarded as ‘non-human’.”
That proclamation goes on to say, “Reverence for every human life, one of the values for which our Founding Fathers fought, defines the character of our Nation. Today, it moves us to promote the health of pregnant mothers and their unborn children. It animates our concern for single moms; the elderly, the infirm, and the disabled; and orphan and foster children. It compels us to address the opioid epidemic and to bring aid to those who struggle with mental illness. It gives us the courage to stand up for the weak and the powerless. And it dispels the notion that our worth depends on the extent to which we are planned for or wanted.”
On another matter: In answer to a journalist’s question at the end of his time in Chile, some words pronounced by Pope Francis caused quite a bit of consternation for victims of clerical sex abuse.
In this regard, Cardinal O’Malley, archbishop of Boston and a key papal advisor (one of the C9, that is, the Council of Cardinals that advises the Holy Father) released a statement that appeared in the online version of thebostonpilot.com. The cardinal was in Peru for another event but did concelebrate at Pope Francis’ final Mass in that nation.
The last story is again from thebostonpilot.com: it was reported by a CNS correspondent aboard the papal flight from Lima, Peru to Rome. The Pope landed about 2:15 this afternoon in Rome.
CARDINAL O’MALLEY; POPE’S WORDS ‘A SOURCE OF GREAT PAIN FOR ABUSE VICTIMS’
From The Boston Pilot, January 20, 2018:
(Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley released the following statement Jan. 20 after Pope Francis’s response to a journalist in which he defended the 2015 appointment of Bishop Juan Barros to lead the Osnoro Diocese in Chile. Bishop Barros had been accused by abuse advocates of covering up abuse perpetrated his friend Father Fernando Karadima. — Ed.)
It is understandable that Pope Francis’ statements yesterday in Santiago, Chile were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator. Words that convey the message “if you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed” abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile.
Not having been personally involved in the cases that were the subject of yesterday’s interview I cannot address why the Holy Father chose the particular words he used at that time. What I do know, however, is that Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the Church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones.
Accompanying the Holy Father at numerous meetings with survivors I have witnessed his pain of knowing the depth and breadth of the wounds inflicted on those who were abused and that the process of recovery can take a lifetime. The Pope’s statements that there is no place in the life of the Church for those who would abuse children and that we must adhere to zero tolerance for these crimes are genuine and they are his commitment.
My prayers and concern will always be with the survivors and their loved ones. We can never undo the suffering they experienced or fully heal their pain. In some cases we must accept that even our efforts to offer assistance can be a source of distress for survivors and that we must quietly pray for them while providing support in fulfilment of our moral obligation. I remain dedicated to work for the healing of all who have been so harmed and for vigilance in doing all that is possible to ensure the safety of children in the community of the Church so that these crimes never happen again.
VATICAN NEWS TWITTER, JANUARY 20, 2018
In a statement, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, says, “Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the Church and its clergy who abused children.”
POPE APOLOGIZES TO SEX ABUSE VICTIMS, DEFENDS ACCUSED CHILEAN BISHOP
(From BostonPilot.com) ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM PERU (CNS) — Pope Francis apologized to victims of clergy sex abuse, saying he unknowingly wounded them by the way he defended a Chilean bishop accused of covering up abuse by his mentor.
Speaking with journalists on his flight to Rome from Lima, Peru, Jan. 21, the pope said he only realized later that his words erroneously implied that victims’ accusations are credible only with concrete proof. (CNA photo)
“To hear that the pope says to their face, ‘Bring me a letter with proof,’ is a slap in the face,” the pope said.
Pope Francis was referring to a response he gave in Iquique, Chile, Jan. 18 when local reporters asked about his support for Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, given accusations that the bishop may have been aware of abuse perpetrated by his former mentor, Father Fernando Karadima. The priest was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.
“The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny. Is that clear?” the pope had told the reporters in Iquique.
His response provoked further outrage, especially from Father Karadima’s victims who said the pope’s response made his earlier apologies for the church’s failure to protect sex abuse victims seem hollow.
Asked about the incident during the flight back to Rome, Pope Francis said he meant to use the word “evidence,” not “proof.” The way he phrased his response, he said, caused confusion and was “not the best word to use to approach a wounded heart.”
“Of course, I know that there are many abused people who cannot bring proof (or) they don’t have it,” he said. “Or at times they have it but they are ashamed and cover it up and suffer in silence. The tragedy of the abused is tremendous.”
However, the pope told reporters on the papal flight he still stood firmly behind his defense of Bishop Barros, because he was “personally convinced” of the bishop’s innocence after the case was investigated twice with no evidence emerging.
Pope Francis said that while “covering up abuse is an abuse in itself,” if he punished Bishop Barros without moral certainty, “I would be committing the crime of a bad judge.”
During the inflight news conference, Pope Francis answered eight questions over the course of an hour, although the conference was interrupted by turbulence, which forced the pope to sit for about five minutes.
As he did in November on his return from Bangladesh, he said he only wanted to respond to questions related to the trip.
Pope Francis told reporters he appreciated the statement made Jan. 20 by Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, acknowledging the pain survivors of abuse felt because of the pope’s statement about Bishop Barros.
“Words that convey the message ‘If you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed’ abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile,” the cardinal wrote.
He also said, “Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones.”
The pope said he was grateful for Cardinal O’Malley’s statement because it struck the right balance between listing what he has done to show his support for sex abuse victims and the pain experienced by victims because of the pope’s remarks.
Pope Francis also spoke about the scandal-plagued Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a Catholic movement based in Peru.
The movement’s founder, Luis Fernando Figari, has been accused of the sexual and psychological abuse of members; he has been ordered by the Vatican to remain in Rome and not have any contact with the movement.
“He declared himself innocent of the charges against him,” Pope Francis told reporters, and he has appealed his cause to the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s supreme court. According to the information the pope has received, he said, “the verdict will be released in less than a month.”
Pope Francis also was asked about the status of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he set up in 2014. The three-year terms of its members expired in December and some have questioned whether child protection really is a priority when the commission’s membership was allowed to lapse.
Before the terms ended, he said, the members decided to recommend who should serve a second term and offering the names of possible new members.
The final list, he said, arrived on his desk a week before the trip began “and now it is going through the normal channels in the Curia.”