Child abuse Victim Confesses against Pope’s Legacy

THE CHARGING of a top Vatican official, Cardinal George Pell, with sex-abuse crimes this week will permanently stain the legacy of Pope Francis, exposing poor judgment in his appointment, victims of sexual abuse said.

Francis’ appointment of Pell, dogged for many years by victims’ allegations that he shielded abusers and had himself molested two young boys in the 1960s, underscores a lack of sufficient vetting for top Vatican posts, Vatican sources said.

Pell, appointed as Francis’ economy minister in 2014, has always strongly denied he molested children or turned a blind eye to abuses. On Thursday, Australian police charged him with historical sex crimes after a two-year investigation.The charges bring the Church’s global abuse scandal to the heart of the Vatican and, according to victims and their advocates, weaken the pope’s credibility in tackling a decades-old crisis against which he vowed “zero tolerance”.

“I think his legacy is under severe threat,” said Peter Saunders, a victim of clergy abuse who took a leave of absence from the papal advisory commission on abuse last year in protest over a lack of progress.

“I genuinely thought when I met with Francis three years ago that ‘this man is the real deal’ and he is going to get on with things and I really thought there was a prospect of real, significant, and rapid change,” Saunders, a Briton, said in a telephone interview.

“But he is surrounded by people who don’t want change.”

The affair threatens to overshadow accolades the Argentine pope has won since his election in 2013 for bringing the Church closer to the poor and migrants and making it more welcoming to those who felt excluded in the past, such as homosexuals Church sexual abuse broke into the open in the United States with reports of cases in Louisiana in 1984 and exploded in 2002, when journalists in Boston found that bishops had systematically moved abusers to new posts instead of defrocking them

‘Catastrophic choices’

Pell told an Australian inquiry last year that the Church had made “catastrophic” choices by refusing to believe abused children, shuffling abusive priests from parish to parish, and relying too heavily on the counsel of priests to solve the problem. He denied involvement in any cover-up.

Australian police did not detail the charges or specify the ages of the alleged victims or the period when the crimes were alleged to have occurred. Pell was ordered to appear before Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on July 26.

Marie Collins of Ireland, another non-clerical member of the Vatican commission Francis established in 2014, and also a victim of priestly abuse when she was a child, quit in frustration in March, citing a “shameful” lack of cooperation within the Vatican.