It’s the case of paedophile priests. The bomb exploded on media outlets in 2002, in Boston. The inquiry launched by the daily newspaper “The Boston Globe” was severe: denunciations, condemnations, complicity, and covering up of cases of sexual abuse on minors on the part of the Catholic clergy. In the city of Boston alone, 89 priests were accused of sexual abuse, while 55 were removed from office. The public opinion was deeply upset by the gravity and by the extension of this phenomenon. Since then, media coverage was sensational. It should be immediately clarified that Charles J. Scicluna, the inflexible “promoter of justice” of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has shown that “media” estimates are oversized. Facts and figures show that the clergy guilty of abuse on minors amounts to approximately 0.67%, out of some half a million priests, of which the paedophiles account for 0.067%.
However, even one would be one too many
There is also another aspect to be underlined: the Catholic Church is the only institution in the world that has carried out a zero tolerance fight against paedophilia. This battle has not been undertaken by other Churches and religions, all of which are pervaded by proportionally higher rates of sexual abuse. Nor was it fought by national institutions, sports associations, healthcare nor educational ones bodies. Reflecting on official figures, according to figures released by Censis, on the basis of data provided by the ministry, in Italy some 0.07% of the cases of paedophilia involve the clergy. It represents the percentage of Italian priests sentenced for paedophilia in the past 50 years, while in civil society there are 21 thousand cases of paedophilia each year. Indeed, the phenomenon of paedophilia and its wicked curse permeates realities and institutions alike. But nobody has engaged in such a radical, authentic fight as the Catholic Church did.
Indeed, an abusive, paedophile priest is a killer of the soul. Indeed, the harm inflicted on the victims is of enormous proportions. Indeed, the betrayal of the Gospel is abysmal.
The fight on paedophilia has delivered evident results. The “John Jay Report” (full title “The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States”) is a document published in 2004, commissioned at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice by the US Bishops’ Conference, aimed at studying cases of abuse on minors inside the Catholic Church. On the basis of the data, the great majority of abuses committed by priests denounced after the year 2000 involve priests that underwent their formation in the years 1968-1980: post-1968, a period of confusion also for the Church.
Today’s priestly formation has largely improved, and the percentage of sexual abuse among recently ordained priests has dropped to zero.
Benedict XVI gave a decisive thrust to the fight on the sexual abuse of children by the clergy. In his speech to the bishops of Ireland, on October 28 2006, Benedict XVI strongly condemned the crimes committed by priests, and stressed in clear words that “it is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes.” He then asked to meet the victims in Sydney, Malta and in the United Kingdom, who were finally coming out in the open. The suffering of the survivors of the murder of souls has finally been recognized.
Now Pope Francis has completed the circle. His ‘No’ is also a No to negligence and to code of silence, no form of complicity whatsoever.
Pope Francis has adopted a new provision establishing that negligence by bishops and superior religious “in protecting the weakest among those entrusted to his care” can result in their being removed from office. In particular, in the Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio the Pope further clarified the procedure announced last year, which according to Canon 193, already in force, can lead to the removal of bishops guilty of negligence in cases involving clerical sexual abuse on minors. The circle has been completed. For even one would be one too many.