Wednesday, September 19, 2018 | ePaper

Five years on, Pope under fire over sex abuse scandals

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AFP, Vatican City  :
As Pope Francis marks the fifth year of his papacy next week, the pontiff once hailed as a fearless reformer is under fire for his handling of the sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church.
Since taking over in March 2013, the 81-year-old Argentinian has championed the cause of the marginalised, saying he wanted a "poor church for the poor" and shunning papal palaces and ostentatious displays of wealth.
His reform agenda has introduced the possibility in certain cases to allow divorced and remarried believers to take communion, although he still agrees with the Church's traditional positions on other issues, such as abortion, artificial contraception and gay marriage.
But the sex abuse scandals have haunted his papacy and last month the Vatican announced it was reviving its anti-paedophile panel.
A trip to Chile in January was seen as a resounding failure after he defended a bishop accused of covering up the crimes of a paedophile priest.
Francis, who like his predecessor Benedict XVI, promised a "zero tolerance" approach to sexual abuse, sparked uproar when he said: "The day they bring me proof against Bishop (Juan) Barros, then I will speak."
But he later apologised to the victims and sent a Vatican top expert on sex abuse to hear the witnesses in the case.
·    'Repeating mistakes of the past' -

Marie Collins of Ireland, who was raped as child by a priest, told AFP that while it might be "human nature to want to defend your institution... the Church, instead of learning from the past, is repeating the mistakes of the past."
"The Church tends to make the same mistake-in every country where survivors start to come forward, they are treated in the same way," said Collins, who resigned last year from the now revived anti-paedophilia commission.
Francis was similarly lenient towards Don Mauro Inzoli, an Italian priest nicknamed "Don Mercedes" for his expensive tastes.
Don Inzoli had been effectively defrocked by Benedict, but Francis overturned that ruling, mitigating his sentence to "a life of prayer."
Nevertheless, after the priest was sentenced to nearly five years in prison in Italy for sex abuse of adolescents last June, the pope dismissed him of clerical duties.

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