Last month, a shocking report discovered that clergy in the Roman Catholic Church worldwide had sexually abused more than 200,000 children over the past 70 years. In France, that number was reported to be around 216,000 since 1950. Many victims have long argued that the Roman Catholic Church has engaged in unethical cover-ups, but members refused to address the matter.
A report said there were at best 2,900-3,200 clergy members, and around 115,000 priests directly responsible for abusing children, mostly teenage boys.
During a ceremony at Santa Maria Degli Angeli Basilica in Assisi, Italy yesterday, Pope Francis honored journalists who worked tirelessly to expose the dangerous inner world of ongoing denial and “cover-up” in the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis used the word “mission” to depict the courageous efforts of many journalists who left their desks in favor of going into the trenches to expose what was taking place behind church doors.
“(I) thank you for what you tell us about what is wrong in the Church, for helping us not to sweep it under the carpet, and for the voice you have given to the abuse victims,”
In 2019, he called for an “all-out battle” against a crime that should be “erased from the face of the earth.” On Saturday, Pope Francis said journalists’ goal is “to explain the world, to make it less obscure, to make those who live in it less fear.”
Last December, there were changes to the Code of Canon Law, which was put in place 11 years by John Paul II in 1983. The revamped version of the law cleans up vague language. More specifically, the law now has the word “sexual abuse, grooming minors for sex, possessing child pornography, and covering up abuse a criminal offense,” which previously did not have the verbiage under the older Vatican law.
Many critics said the law was not designed to protect potential victims under the law written by John Paul II, it wasn’t designed to protect potential victims, and that it gave members of the clergy an escape to continue to victimize their victims or cover up their actions by saying the law was left open for interpretation.
Some changes in the new law prohibit the ordination of women, and no longer can confessions be recorded. But most importantly, the Vatican’s law honors the experiences of adults by recognizing that they had and can be victimized by priests along with children.
“Previously, the Church believed adults could give or withdraw consent because of their age, and did not take into account that adults could also be victims, especially if there is a power imbalance.”
In addition, the new code mandates that a priest can be removed for “force, threats or abuse of his authority to engage in sexual acts.” Also, the new law recognizes that seductive methods employed by clergy members to groom their victims before the devious act are grounds for punishment.
In the past, church staffers were often viewed as playing a limited role in the ongoing victimization of boys. Now, under the new law, administrators and other staffers can face consequences, such as losing their jobs, paying fines, or being removed from their communities.
High-ranking Catholic Church officials held most of the decision-making when it came to addressing the allegations of abuse and cover-ups. Now, under the new law, a percentage of the power is taken away for high-ranking members, and “anyone found guilty of this could be charged with negligence in failing to properly investigate and punish sexual predators.”