The Catholic Church recently tried to make a deal with New South Wales Police that could have put an end to the investigation into pedophile priests; this would have caused investigators to be in violation of the Crimes Act. Police records show two separate attempts to make a deal to allow new ways for the church to handle complaints of sexual and physical abuse. This news comes just six months after Pope Francis I made subtle demands to hold priests who have committed these crimes accountable for their actions. These were among the first of many clues that the Catholic Church may begin to change its longstanding practices and policies. As the details from New South Wales emerge, these may shed some light on how the new Pope will guide and instruct the church hierarchy, regarding the commission, investigation and prosecution of criminal acts committed within the church.
For years there have been allegations made against the Catholic church of sexual and physical abuse. In February of this year, the archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest archdiocese in the United States, was ordered by the court to release some 12,000 records proving that acts of pedophilia had occurred in the Catholic Church. The documents also alleged that the abusive priests had been protected by the church. Though this particular scandal arose in Los Angeles, the real culprit is still and always has been the Vatican in Rome. With a new Pope standing a little more firmly with his understanding of right from wrong however, there may soon be changes made in the handling of these crimes. The Vatican seems to be undergoing a much needed internal renovation.
In April of this year, Pope Francis made a very public demand for change in the current treatment of criminals inside the church. He told officials of the Roman Catholic Church to “act decisively” and to punish the offending pedophile priests. The Pope stated that to do so is necessary and is the only way for the church to have “credibility,” according to the Vatican. This new attitude toward the ongoing cover-ups within the Vatican came as a surprise to many who have challenged the ethics of this holy governing body.
Pope Francis I, was elected in March of this year. He has shown the world that the Catholic Church is ready to make changes in many areas, including the church’s stand on homosexuality. The Pope has stated that he would not “judge the behavior” of homosexuals. Pope Francis, unlike popes of the past, seems to have a much more Liberal view of the Roman Catholic Church and of the ever-changing world. Francis I has made it clear that women should play an important role in the decision making processes of the church; but he has also seemingly ignored those critics who have pushed him to be more vocal on marriage and abortion issues.
Many people hope that Pope Francis will put an end to the overabundance of criminal cover-ups, deals with police or local authorities and bring a new transparency to the Catholic Church; although many others question his sincerity. Pleading for harsher punishments, opening once closed minds, ridding the church of many centuries-old beliefs and showing the world his ability to be someone who leads by inclusion and not exclusion, the Pope gives many people hope for changes that will last. Those who doubt his motives are perhaps just waiting for further proof that the humble but outspoken leader of the church, Francis I, can actually cause the church to evolve.
Those afflicted by pedophile priests have not been so quick to accept this new Pope’s words of encouragement. The victims of predatory priests may not find it an easy task to take this man at his word and many may never be able to forgive those who committed violent acts against them; but for those who may be protected from future abuses, hope lies in what can be a remarkable change. Pope Francis I has promised harsher punishments, greater transparency and an end to cover-ups and a new definition of what the church represents. All of these seem to indicate the beginning of much needed change at the Vatican. Although these reports from New South Wales about the Catholic Church attempting to make deals with the New South Wales police are cause for concern, Pope Francis seems committed to change.
Written by: Amy Magness Whatley