Pope Francis has responded to the tens of thousands of cases of child sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy worldwide by claiming the Church is being victimised.
The Pope recently wrapped up a month-long meeting, or ‘Synod’, for Bishops from around the world at the Vatican by claiming the Church is being “persecuted” and “dirtied” by “the devil” through reports of child sexual abuse.
The Church’s stance
To many, the Pope’s words are a true reflection of his views regarding the endemic sexual abuse of children perpetrated or enabled by Catholic clergy over decades.
They believe his move to defrock a Chilean priest who had been convicted of sexually assaulting children was due to public pressure than his desire to truly reform the Church, pointing to the fact it took 7 years for the Church to take action.
Meanwhile, horrific abuse stories continue to emerge, including an extensive report from Germany which has found that thousands of children were sexually abused by clerics over the past 70 years.
As more reports emerge, the Catholic Church faces a global credibility crisis that involves decades of sexual abuse, an entrenched culture of over-ups and hiding the sexual offences of believers behind the ‘sacred confessional seal’.
Human bones found
To make matters worse for the Church, human bones were recently discovered under a floor at the Vatican embassy in Rome, leading to speculation they may hold the answer to one of Italy’s most mysterious cold cases.
Emanuela Orlandi was 15 when she went missing in 1983 after a flute lesson in a property owned by the Church in the centre of Rome.
Her disappearance has remained unexplained ever since. While there have been many conspiracy theories over the event, the Church has been accused of failing to co-operate with the Italian authorities and concealing information relating to the disappearance.
The Bishops’ Synod
The Bishop’s gathering was intended to address a range of issues affecting the Church, including respect for the gay community and the role of women in the church – although none of the seven nuns in attendance at the Synod were allowed to cast a vote.
The meeting was, however, heavily dominated by the issue of sexual abuse which has plagued the Church and its parishioners.
The Bishops stopped short of issuing a communal apology for the decades of abuse and cover-up committed by priests and their superiors, and in the end voted on official text that said: No amount of repentance can heal the trauma caused to victims.
Frustration with inaction
For many, the Church is doing too little, too late.
The Pope has yet to make any official statement to acknowledge the more than 4,000 allegations of abuse within the Catholic Church of Australia, against 1880 perpetrators, which came to light in the Royal Commission into Child abuse in 2017.
And his recent remarks at the Synod have many concerned that little has changed.