As the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church gather in Rome for the conclave that will elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, a new determination to do something about the Church’s sex abuse scandals is emerging.
Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, asserted that the new pope “obviously has to accept the universal code of the church now, which is zero tolerance for anyone who has abused a child. There’s a deep-seated conviction, certainly on the part of anyone who has been a pastor, that this has to be continually addressed.”
It was the American bishops who responded in 2002 to the growing number of sex-abuse scandals in the church by insisting that the church adopt a “zero-tolerance” policy toward priests credibly accused of sex-abuse. The rest of the cardinals around the world then started to follow suit.
Cardinal Francis George allowed that there has been a drop in sex-abuse reports, but added, “But there’s still the victims.The wound is still deep in their hearts, and as long as it’s with them it will be with us. The pope has to keep this in mind.”
David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests was encouraged to hear that statement, saying, “It should be a topic and we are glad that Cardinal George said it will be and must be, but the focus has got to be on safeguarding kids first, healing victims second.”
Meanwhile, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the most senior Roman Catholic cleric in Britain who has been outspoken against homosexuality, acknowledged on Sunday that he had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct decades ago and offered his resignation. There has been no comment from the Vatican as yet.
But things are changing; for the first time the Vatican is holding daily press conferences.