The New York Times
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
JULY 7, 2017
For all of Pope Francis’ deserved acclaim in leading the Roman Catholic Church to new directions, he is failing badly on his promise to address the child abuse scandal at the crucial level where ranking churchmen systematically protected priests who raped and molested children.
His failure to confront the problem was underlined last week when the pope had to grant one of his closest advisers, Cardinal George Pell of Australia, a leave of absence from the Vatican to answer multiple charges of sexual assault in Melbourne.
Until now, Francis stood by Cardinal Pell, the Vatican treasurer, even after the cardinal admitted to a special Australian investigation last year that the church had made “enormous mistakes” in responding to the scandal while he was a ranking archbishop. But the cardinal denied any memory of priests who were abusers, or of covering up their criminal behavior, as critics charged. Some priests convicted of crimes, however, testified that Cardinal Pell did know of their activity. Heading home, the cardinal, who in the past denied allegations of molesting children as a young priest, said he expected to prove his innocence of the assault charges.
The cardinal’s deepening involvement is a severe blow to the Vatican and the pope as they try to convince the world that the scandal has ebbed with a supposedly full and forthright accounting. But while more than 800 rogue priests have been defrocked and some sent to prison, diocesan and parish superiors have largely been spared sanctions and discipline. This, despite their having abetted violators by rotating them to new parishes and concealing serial child abuse from civil authorities. Australian investigators uncovered more than 4,400 victims across a 35-year period and at least 1,880 individuals suspected of being abusers, most of them priests and religious brothers.