This week I have mostly been getting annoyed … (part 2)

So straight on to part 2 – the Pope.

Bit of a heavy one this, so no photos or media.

I should probably point out as well that I’m not a Catholic.

As you may know, off the back of his Middle East Tour, Pope Francis spoke “informally” to reporters on board the papal aeroplane (who knew there was a papal aeroplane!), taking questions on a range of subjects, including child sexual abuse by Catholic priests. According to a CNN report, Pope Francis described sex abuse as a “horrific crime”, he called for a “zero tolerance” approach and compared it to, “by comparison, holding a black Mass”.

Now I admit I had to look this up.

From a quick bit of research, the actual practice is somewhat unclear, but I’ve gathered that it is a ritual characterised by the inversion of the traditional Catholic Mass, often featuring upside crucifxes and in the modern era it is linked/associated with Satanic worship sacrifice. Serious stuff.

The BBC’s Middle East Editor, Jeremy Bowen agreed. On Radio 4’s Today programme he said this was strong language from the Pope, language to be taken seriously. I agree – if the Leader of the Catholic Church, Christ’s representative on Earth is comparing child abuse to Satanic worship that is surely a sign he is taking the matter in hand and dealing with it*.

Isn’t it?

Well, that is a matter for debate.

From my admittedly limited knowledge of Catholic law excommunication is the ultimate sanction against a Catholic – cannot receive blessings or attend Mass and at least it used to also mean that unless the Pope interceded on their behalf they could not ascend to Heaven – again pretty strong stuff. So has Pope Francis excommunicated any of the Catholic priests convicted of child sexual abuse?

Um. Not that I can see.

Most recently an Australian priest was excommunicated for supporting gay marriage and women’s ordination. A Brazilian priest was also excommunicated for refusing to rescind a statement which he made regarding his belief that two people of the same sex could be in love. Now there is the possibility that I’m wrong about excommunication and it’s not the severe punishment that it a) sounds like or b) I think it is.

Or Pope Francis has not acted against at all against Catholic priests convicted of child sexual abuse. Referring once again to the CNN report, three bishops are apparently under investigation. One has been found guilty and the “penalty is being considered”. I’m sorry, considered? Surely turn all your evidence over to the courts and let him be found guilty and sentenced (one would hope strongly) by the laws of the land.

In my view, if Pope Francis is to be the reformer that many hope he will be/is (acknowledging that the Jesuit Order from whence he came is quite conservative) he needs to take decisive action on this issue, above all else. It will show the world (well beyond the Catholic population on the planet) that he truly believes this heinous crime is a “betrayal of the body of the Lord” and that he has the strength of will to deal it with properly and slowly begin the healing process for the victims of Catholic abuse around the world.

* I should like to point out that a learned colleague of mine has pointed out to me that arguably child sexual abuse is “even worse than mumbling a bunch of gibberish with an inverted cross on display”. I do agree.

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