On January 2nd, Pope Francis released a letter reminding the world’s Catholic bishops that he will not tolerate any tolerance of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests. The letter was dated December 28th. In the letter, Pope Francis is unequivocal about the issue and if you were to judge him solely on his written words, you’d have to conclude that he was serious about stamping out clergy sexual abuse.
Yet, the press have caught Francis in at least two instances where his actions directly contradict his words. The first incident involves Italian priest Nicola Corradi who, along with four other men, was arrested in November for sexually abusing hearing impaired children. All but Corradi were sanctioned by the Vatican. This was not the first time Corradi’s name had been linked to the sexual abuse of children at the school. He was named along with other priests in 2009 for abusing children. The students from the school sent a personal letter in 2014 directly to the Pope asking him to do something about Corradi, who was living in Argentina, the Pope’s native country. The Pope did nothing with the letter. In fact, it was only a few weeks ago that the Vatican acknowledged its existence.
The second instance is perhaps more troubling and indicates a papal mindset that should be deeply troubling to those of us concerned with child safety. It involves the case of Mauro Inzoli or “Don Mercedes” as he was known for his flamboyant lifestyle. Pope Benedict had defrocked him in 2012 for child sexual abuse. In 2014, Pope Francis took the highly unusual step of reinstating Inzoli as a priest. Michael Brendan Dougherty, writing in The Week wrote,
But Don Mercedes was “with cardinal friends,” we have learned. Cardinal Coccopalmerio and Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto, now dean of the Roman Rota, both intervened on behalf of Inzoli, and Pope Francis returned him to the priestly state in 2014, inviting him to a “a life of humility and prayer.” These strictures seem not to have troubled Inzoli too much. In January 2015, Don Mercedes participated in a conference on the family in Lombardy.
This summer, civil authorities finished their own trial of Inzoli, convicting him of eight offenses. Another 15 lay beyond the statute of limitations. The Italian press hammered the Vatican, specifically the CDF, for not sharing the information they had found in their canonical trial with civil authorities. Of course, the pope himself could have allowed the CDF to share this information with civil authorities if he so desired.”
Dougherty intimates that Pope Francis in speaking one way but doing the opposite is more of a Machiavellian figure than a vicar of Christ. He’s not the only writer to come to that conclusion. Rod Dreher, writing on the same topic, concludes, “As ever with church leaders who talk about reform, don’t listen to what they say, but rather watch what they do.”