I like the Pope. A person without faith doesn’t normally say things like that – but for me, it’s true. The Pope is cool. Many of his failings are inexcusable – sure – his stance against contraception, his reiteration that homosexuality is immoral etc. There’s no denying that he reproduces, legitimises and enshrines some of the least progressive tendencies of the Catholic world – social prejudice surrounding non-conforming lifestyles, in particular.
However, there is something to be said for the idea that as far as Pope’s go, Francis is a decent one. That sounds like faint praise – it’s not. While progressives should be ever more ambitious in pursuing their ends, we should also take comfort in the fact that not every powerful position in the world is occupied by a Trump or Putin or Jinping or Modi. Occupants of these enormously significant positions have tremendous influence – to build up global confidence, or global paranoia. Francis is doing a lot for the former.
However, that’s not to say the Catholic Church is doing well. The Pope is a decent shopfront – but the same problems exist in the room out back. An inquiry examining institutional sex abuse in Australia has heard 7% of the nation’s Catholic priests allegedly abused children between 1950 and 2010.
The BBC reports: Between 1980 and 2015, 4,444 children were abused at more than 1,000 Catholic institutions across Australia.
Those statistics, taken in line with a series of similar scandals around the world (Ireland, USA, India, Dominican Republic etc) shows that the Church is far from rooting out this problem of abuse.
It is easy, and lazy, and also probably not incorrect to say there is a link between the focus on abstinence in the Church and abuse; But that doesn’t actually help any of the victims. The Church, and the Pope need to do two things: 1) Make institutional reforms to ensure abuse does not occur, and if it does, carry out proper, legal investigations of malpractice, and 2) Properly care for, support and make fitting reparations to victims.
Pope Francis is a cool guy. Let’s see how he handles this.