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Pope Francis Calls Clerical Sex Abuse an ‘Urgent’ Challenge for the Church

The Associated Press
AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D.

ROME – Pope Francis has asked Catholics to pray for an upcoming Vatican summit on clerical sex abuse, saying he intended to convoke the meeting as an act of “forceful pastoral responsibility.”

“From next Thursday to Sunday, there will take place in the Vatican a meeting with the presidents of all the bishops’ conferences on the matter of the protection of minors in the Church,” the pope told the crowds gathered in Saint Peter’s Square Sunday for his weekly Angelus prayer. “I invite prayers for this appointment that I have wished as an act of forceful pastoral responsibility in the face of an urgent challenge in our time.”

On Saturday, the Vatican announced that former-cardinal Theodore McCarrick would be laicized after being found guilty of serial homosexual abuse.

According to a Vatican statement, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) had found Theodore McCarrick guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

The decree imposed upon McCarrick “the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state,” the statement said.

Despite the expedited laicization of McCarrick, the question remains why Francis failed to act sooner, especially if — as has been alleged — he knew of McCarrick’s crimes as early as 2013.

Former Vatican nuncio to the United States Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò published an 11-page report last August that the pope had learned of McCarrick’s misdeeds at least as early as 2013 — since the official personally informed him — and yet lifted sanctions against McCarrick and rehabilitated him as an advisor in naming new American bishops.

When journalists asked the pope whether these allegations were true, and when he had learned the facts about McCarrick, the pope neither confirmed nor denied the report.

Francis encouraged journalists to investigate the case, but so far has refused to answer their questions.

For his part, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has suggested that the upcoming Vatican summit seems doomed to failure because of an unwillingness to address the root causes of the crisis, notably the extensive homosexual network in the Church.

“Why does the word ‘homosexuality’ never appear in recent official documents of the Holy See?” Viganò asked in a recent symposium. “This is by no means to suggest that most of those with a homosexual inclination are abusers, but the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of abuse has been inflicted on post-pubescent boys by homosexual clerics.”

“It is mere hypocrisy to condemn the abuse and claim to sympathize with the victims without facing up to this fact honestly. A spiritual revitalization of the clergy is necessary, but it will be ultimately ineffectual if it does not address this problem,” the archbishop stated.

In his statement, Viganò also questioned why Pope Francis continues to elevate “notorious” homosexuals to positions of influence if he really intends to tackle the problem.

“Why does Pope Francis keep and even call as his close collaborators people who are notorious homosexuals?” Viganò said. “Why has he refused to answer legitimate and sincere questions about these appointments? In doing so he has lost credibility on his real will to reform the Curia and fight the corruption.”

Recent reports indicate that clerical sex abuse over the last decades has been overwhelmingly homosexual in nature, with at least three out of four victims being male.

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