Pope Francis has begun reducing penalties for pedophile priests, unveiling a “prayers not prison” punishment scheme for child abusers within the Catholic church.
The liberal pope claims to be applying his vision of a “merciful church” to pedophile priests by reducing punishments to lighter sentences, in some cases “a lifetime of prayer“.
However sex abuse victims are appalled, saying Pope Francis is normalizing pedophilia within the Catholic church again, undoing the work done by his predecessor Pope Benedict.
Marie Collins, an abuse survivor and founding member of Francis’ sex-abuse advisory commission, expressed dismay that the penalties were being weakened, arguing that pedophiles should be sentenced to jail, not told to pray.
She said: “All who abuse have made a conscious decision to do so. Even those who are paedophiles, experts will tell you, are still responsible for their actions. They can resist their inclinations.”
Daily Mail reports:
One of the priests was the Reverend Mauro Inzoli, who was found guilty of abusing young boys by the Vatican in 2012 and was ordered to be defrocked.
However, he appealed, and in 2014 Francis reduced the penalty to a lifetime of prayer, prohibiting him from celebrating Mass in public or being near children, barring him from his diocese and ordering five years of psychotherapy.
Rev Inzoli was then convicted by an Italian criminal court for his sex crimes against five children as young as 12. He is now facing a second church trial after new evidence emerged against him.
A church official has said some paedophile priests and their high-ranking friends appealed to Pope Francis by citing the pope’s own words about mercy in their petitions.
They said: ‘With all this emphasis on mercy … he is creating the environment for such initiatives.’
Marie Collins, an abuse survivor and founding member of Francis’ sex-abuse advisory commission, expressed dismay that the congregation’s recommended penalties were being weakened.
She said: ‘All who abuse have made a conscious decision to do so. Even those who are paedophiles, experts will tell you, are still responsible for their actions. They can resist their inclinations.’
Many canon lawyers and church authorities argue that defrocking paedophiles can put society at greater risk because the church no longer exerts control over them.
They argue that keeping the men in restricted ministry, away from children, enables superiors to exert some degree of supervision.
But Ms Collins said the church must also take into account the message that reduced canonical sentences sends to both survivors and abusers.
‘While mercy is important, justice for all parties is equally important,’ she said.
‘If there is seen to be any weakness about proper penalties, then it might well send the wrong message to those who would abuse.’
Comparatively, his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, rarely granted clemency petitions and defrocked 800 priests, who had raped and molested children, during his eight-year papacy.
According to the church official, Pope Francis also ordered three staffers to be dismissed – two of whom worked for the discipline section that handles sex abuse cases.