News (USA)

Pope meets with sex-abuse victims; disparages gay marriage

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been hit hard by the sexual abuse scandal and has been the subject of repeated grand jury investigations, including one that accused it keeping on assignment more than three dozen priests facing serious accusations. A monsignor was found guilty of endangering children by not removing pedophile priests, becoming the first American church official convicted of such an offense.

Victims’ groups had complained earlier in the week that Francis neglected to address their plight when he congratulated bishops for their “courageous” and generous response to the scandal. Sunday’s meeting took place a day after the pope celebrated Mass with Justin Rigali, the cardinal who was archbishop in Philadelphia when the archdiocese was accused of sheltering pedophiles.

Victim support groups were unimpressed by the meeting.

The Rev. Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer who worked at the Vatican embassy in Washington and is now an advocate for victims, said that including more than just victims of abusive clergy “seriously minimizes” the problem in the church.

“We don’t think we’re going to get any real support to change this from the leadership in the Vatican,” Doyle said in a phone interview. “They’re having this big meeting of families. But there’s been no real room for all the families that the Catholic Church has destroyed through sexual abuse.”

The main victims’ support group, SNAP, dismissed the meeting as an exercise in public relations.

“Is a child anywhere on Earth safer now that a pope, for maybe the seventh or eighth time or ninth time, has briefly chatted with abuse victims? No,” said SNAP’s David Clohessy.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the pope met with the survivors for a half-hour at the San Carlo Borromeo seminary. He said the pope prayed with them, listened to their stories and expressed his closeness in their suffering and his “pain and shame” in the case of those abused by priests.

In his meeting with the bishops, Francis referred to gay marriage for the first time in his U.S. trip, lamenting the new reality in which Christians must live. But he also urged American bishops to redirect their energies away from complaining about it, saying a church that only explains its doctrine is “dangerously unbalanced.”

“I would even say that it is stuck in a vicious circle,” he said.

The U.S. bishops have called the legalization of gay marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court three months ago “a tragic error” and “profoundly immoral and unjust.”

Hours before Sunday’s Mass, Roman Catholics from across the country and around the world began trekking into the city, crossing bridges on foot and packing subway cars.

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