Pope Francis’ Toothless Proposals

Pope Francis proposals offer yet another layer of untested, unaccountable, internal church ‘justice’, cold comfort to victims of priestly child rape.

Under the auspices of the new proposals, a new Vatican tribunal is to be set up, a ‘process’ aiming at ‘fixing’ the current system’s failures inside the church when dealing with instances of child rape. Fixing by

Until now, the only way a priest, bishop, cardinal could be ‘defrocked’ was directly by the Pope himself. These new proposals aim to create a ‘process’ whereby those accused of child rape can be brought before it, and given a chance to defend/account for themselves.

Forgive me for being sceptical but having another ‘process’, another system of internal church ‘justice’ isn’t going to solve this problem. Creating a tribunal of ‘Princes of the Church’ to hold judgement over other ‘princes of the church’ (or even the lower orders) isn’t my idea of cool, hard or even effective justice.

One of the ‘princes of the church’

After all, the obvious problem with all of this is the total absence of any commitments to actually hand over documented evidences to law enforcement. There is absolutely nothing new about any of this; but don’t take my word for it.

Kurt Martens, professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America, told the Associated Press that what was significant about the new law is that it doesn’t mention that original proposal for the tribunal, which would have criminalized and prosecuted negligence.

“There’s nothing breaking here,” Martens said.

Surely if the Pope and wider church authorities were sincere in their desire to protect kids they’d be referring cases of cover-up to police authorities. But as of now all that is being offered is yet another layer of ‘in house justice’. This is from the same institution which presided over the industrial-scale protection and sheltering of paedophiles.

David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he was “extraordinarily sceptical” in a statement issued.

I’d like to echo David Clohessy at this juncture and say a process isn’t what will protect kids, action will protect kids.

What makes me even more sceptical about all of this is the timing. Just last month the Pope voiced support for French cardinal, Philippe Barbarin, who has been repeatedly accused of covering up cases involving allegedly pedophilic priests. The Pope called him a “brave and creative man”. Creative no doubt, if he’s managed to protect child rapists from secular law enforcements for so many decades.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin

Another internal church process won’t help. Having ‘princes of the church’ hold court of their fellow colleagues won’t help. Keeping things ‘in house’ won’t help. What will help is action, coordinated to hand evidence of abuse, and cover-up of abuse, over to secular law authorities. Until that happens, everything we’ve seen so far from Pope Francis is mood music and PR.




  1. Sadly, in many instances the right to good name of the accused is seen as more important than transparent justice for the victims. Just as sadly, the trial by publicity of the british media in many instances does not allow due process either. And just as sadly, the massive perpetration and cover-up by civil authorities right up to the House of Lords for a statistically much more frequent abuse inspires no confidence in the police and judiciary giving transparent justice either.


    • All good points.

      The antics of the British tabloids in recent years have undermined rather than strengthened the right to fair and transparent trial. Phone hacking, overblown headlines, condemning before verdicts – it has all taken a toll. This perhaps is why we’re seeing a rising number of politicians and members of the electorate support the idea of having the accused name be withheld from being made public in cases of rape or alleged abuse unless the accused is found guilty.

      As for the HoL, I’d say their role in the judicial process is much exaggerated these days, the Supreme Court has replaced them and their role (a welcomed change I might add).

      You touch on all of this and make a good point about a crumbling loss of trust in institutions. But it is worth remembering that public trust in judges has never actually been higher. We trust some institutions, just not the elected ones it would seem!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s