Pope quietly trims sanctions for sex abusers seeking mercy

USA Today: Pope quietly trims sanctions for sex abusers seeking mercy

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis has quietly reduced sanctions against a handful of pedophile priests, applying his vision of a merciful church even to its worst offenders in ways that survivors of abuse and the pope’s own advisers question.

One case has come back to haunt him: An Italian priest who received the pope’s clemency was later convicted by an Italian criminal court for his sex crimes against children as young as 12. The Rev. Mauro Inzoli is now facing a second church trial after new evidence emerged against him, The Associated Press has learned.

The Inzoli case is one of several in which Francis overruled the advice of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and reduced a sentence that called for the priest to be defrocked, two canon lawyers and a church official told AP. Instead, the priests were sentenced to penalties including a lifetime of penance and prayer and removal from public ministry.

In some cases, the priests or their high-ranking friends appealed to Francis for clemency by citing the pope’s own words about mercy in their petitions, the church official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the proceedings are confidential.

“With all this emphasis on mercy … he is creating the environment for such initiatives,” the church official said, adding that clemency petitions were rarely granted by Pope Benedict XVI, who launched a tough crackdown during his 2005-2013 papacy and defrocked some 800 priests who raped and molested children…

St. John Paul II was long criticized for failing to respond to the abuse crisis, but ultimately he said in 2002 that “there is no place in the priesthood or religious life” for anyone who would harm the young. Francis has repeatedly proclaimed “zero tolerance” for abusive priests and in December wrote to the world’s bishops committing to take “all necessary measures” to protect them…

Victim advocates have long questioned Francis’ commitment to continuing Benedict’s tough line, given he had no experience dealing with abusive priests or their victims in his native Argentina. While Francis counts Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley as his top adviser on abuse, he has also surrounded himself with cardinal advisers who botched handling abuse cases in their archdioceses.

“They are not having zero tolerance,” said Rocio Figueroa, a former Vatican official and ex-member of the Peru-based Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a conservative Catholic lay society rocked by sex scandals. The Vatican recently handed down sanctions against the group’s founder after determining that he sexually, psychologically and physically abused his recruits. His victims, however, are enraged that it took the Vatican six years to decide that the founder should be isolated, but not expelled, from the community…

But 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,” Collins said in an email. “If there is seen to be any weakness about proper penalties, then it might well send the wrong message to those who would abuse.”

It can also come back to embarrass the church. Take for example the case of Inzoli, a well-connected Italian priest who was found guilty by the Vatican in 2012 of abusing young boys and ordered defrocked.

Inzoli 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…

Francis scrapped the commission’s proposed tribunal for bishops who botch abuse cases following legal objections from the congregation. The commission’s other major initiative — a guideline template to help dioceses develop policies to fight abuse and safeguard children — is gathering dust. The Vatican never sent the template to bishops’ conferences, as the commission had sought, or even linked it to its main abuse-resource website.​


I don’t think Benedict gets enough credit for how hard he worked to cleanse the Church of this filth.
Perhaps this is why +Burke was sent to Guam to preside over the canonical trial of a bishop accused of sex abuse…the Vatican recognizes that this is one area where the so-called “rigid” traditional wing of the Church may have the right approach.

From what I understand they are removed from ministery forever, but still forgiven. Nice to see the church believes that ALL SINS are forgivable. It is very hard to walk the walk.

Prayers for all affected.

A child abuse scandal is coming for Pope Francis

Two people with direct ties to the Vatican tell me that Pope Francis, following the advice of his clubby group of allies in the curia, is pressing to undo the reforms that were instituted by his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI in handling the cases of abuser priests. Francis is pushing ahead with this plan even though the curial officials and cardinals who favor it have already brought more scandal to his papacy by urging him toward lenient treatment of abusers…

Pope Francis and his cardinal allies have been known to interfere with CDF’s judgments on abuse cases. This intervention has become so endemic to the system that cases of priestly abuse in Rome are now known to have two sets of distinctions. The first is guilty or innocent. The second is “with cardinal friends” or "without cardinal friends."

And indeed, Pope Francis is apparently pressing ahead with his reversion of abuse practices even though the cardinals who are favorable to this reform of reform have already brought him trouble because of their friends.

Consider the case of Fr. Mauro Inzoli. Inzoli lived in a flamboyant fashion and had such a taste for flashy cars that he earned the nickname “Don Mercedes.” He was also accused of molesting children. He allegedly abused minors in the confessional. He even went so far as to teach children that sexual contact with him was legitimated by scripture and their faith. When his case reached CDF, he was found guilty. And in 2012, under the papacy of Pope Benedict, Inzoli was defrocked.

But Don Mercedes was “with cardinal friends,” we have learned. Cardinal Coccopalmerio and Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto, now dean of the Roman Rota, both intervened on behalf of Inzoli, and Pope Francis returned him to the priestly state in 2014, inviting him to a “a life of humility and prayer.” These strictures seem not to have troubled Inzoli too much. In January 2015, Don Mercedes participated in a conference on the family in Lombardy.

This summer, civil authorities finished their own trial of Inzoli, convicting him of eight offenses. Another 15 lay beyond the statute of limitations. The Italian press hammered the Vatican, specifically the CDF, for not sharing the information they had found in their canonical trial with civil authorities. Of course, the pope himself could have allowed the CDF to share this information with civil authorities if he so desired.

It’s astonishing that after giving in to requests for intervention by Coccopalmerio and Pinto — requests which were unjust and humiliating — the pope would proceed to give authority over some child abuse cases to Pinto. But perhaps that isn’t the first thing on his mind. **Doing so would reward one of Pope Francis’ friends and humiliate someone he sees as an antagonist.

The veteran church reporter John Allen recently noted in Crux that Pope Francis doesn’t always take the direct approach when trying to kneecap his critics within the church, or the obstacles to his reform in the Vatican. Sometimes, he goes around them. Allen wrote that “it means formally keeping people in place while entrusting the real responsibility to somebody else and thus rendering the original official, if not quite irrelevant, certainly less consequential.”

That has been Francis’ approach with CDF, led by the German Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, in the past.** When Pope Francis wanted to change the process for declaring marriages null, he essentially skipped over Müller, a constant critic of the pope’s views on marriage and the sacraments. Instead the pope went to Cardinal Coccopalmerio. The loyalty of Monsignor Pinto is unquestioned. It was Pinto who lashed out at four cardinals who publicly questioned the orthodoxy of the pope’s recent document, Amoris Laetitia. The four cardinals criticized the document for encouraging changes to Catholic sacramental practice they held to be impossible given Catholic doctrine. Pinto reminded them that the pope could remove their status as cardinals. Meanwhile Cardinal Müller seemed to be giving aid and comfort to these cardinals, saying that the sacramental practice of giving communion to people in adulterous relationships could not be endorsed.

In any case, on abuse, the justice dealt out by Müller’s CDF seems to be too harsh for the pope and his allies. And so, the pope hopes to render the CDF irrelevant in these cases.

Nothing has been decided with any finality, and it is possible that saner heads will prevail and remind Pope Francis which cardinals and offices are really serving his best interests and doing justice in the name of his authority. Or at least remind him that while the press may cheer him for undoing John Paul II’s teaching on communion for the divorced, they may not cheer him for lightening the penalties on child molesters who happen to have friends in his inner circle.


Pope Benedict XVI defrocked Fr. Mauro Inzoli in 2012; Francis reinstated him in 2014 because of interventions from Inzoli’s cardinal friends close to Francis. Read above.

And after the Holy Father reinstated him, the Italian police arrested him…right? Which makes the Vatican look like they’re soft on child abusers. It sends a very troubling message. After everything that we’ve learned over the past 15 years or so, how can any prelate not insist on coming down with an iron hammer to rid the Church of this evil? Knowing that this priest touched children in the confessional…how could any cardinal intercede for his reinstatement? I don’t understand the mindset at all. I’m not saying we should torture abusers…they’re still human beings…they should certainly be granted absolution if reprentant…but to restore them to ministry? It makes the Church a laughing stock…again. And this is happening while the Royal Commission in Australia is revealing another sad chapter in this story of sexual predators among the clergy.

The Royal Commission in Australia isn’t so much revealing another sad chapter as
simply re-hashing the same old chapter over and over and over.

30, 40, 50 year old crimes.

Perpetrators who are already in jail or deceased.

Church heirarchy who were apparently supposed to go to the police and report hearsay
and second-hand versions of events which the complainants themselves would not and had not reported to the police.

Last week senior Archbishops were being vilified for not violating the privacy and trust of alleged victims, and for NOT revealing the names of people who wanted their complaints to remain confidential. And they were condemned for not publically accusing alleged pedophile suspects - an act which would amount to defamation.

We need to pray for our priests and religious who are falsely accused of complicity in this scandal. They too are the victims.

Yes. Some of my non-Catholic friends ask “why are you still Catholic? They do terrible things”.

I usually reply using Tim Staples words: “why would I leave Peter because of Judas? There will always be Judases in the Church. There will always be sinners in the Church and outside.”

When I was baptised in the Church, at that moment I believed I don’t have choice to leave and I’m not speaking of free will. I made the decision, I made that commitment just like I made a vow before God to be faithful to my marriage. I take it very seriously, that’s why when I have doubts about my faith I make sure:

  1. I listen to my Priest;
  2. I pray for clarification; and
  3. I practice the sacraments faithfully and weekly.

Those 3 things helped me to grow and keep on the path but IMHO number 3 is the most vital as my early doubts have vanished due to the power of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. It would be very easy for me to run because of some perceived slight or misunderstanding or personal hubris but I’m not a quitter. I like to work things through.

Faith like a flower garden doesn’t grow by itself, it requires nourishment, tending to, maintenance and guidance.

I’m not quite sure if the point of the OP is to merely accuse the Holy Father of being too soft on sinners and even letting child abusers off too easy, or it’s meant to accuse him of something even darker, of actually sinning himself by granting unjust favors to his friends and allies as part of some underhanded political strategy.

Either way, even if Pope Francis is guilty of something nefarious, this doesn’t actually prove or disprove anything about the Church itself. Popes, even the holy ones who are now saints, still did commit some sins just as all of us have done.


I personally don’t see what “forgiveness” has to do with returning someone to ministry who has proved completely unsuitable to represent the church. You want forgiveness? Easy peasy. Go to confession. Whether or not you should remain a priest is a totally separate matter however. And I cannot wrap my head around interfering with sentences defrocking a priest found guilty of such terrible crimes in this day.

I’ve read the article. It appears that the ‘reduced sentence’ calls for no public ministry and no contact with minors. Also, there may be a reluctance to defrock pediphile priests because a defrocked priest is no longer under the care of the Church…which could actually put more children in harms way because there would be no monitoring of the priest since he’d no longer be in ministry. Not sure how accurate those allusions are, but it was at least suggested in the article.

It is tempting to feel this way, its kind of the norm nowadays anyway, I mean, once someone is convicted or heck, even accused of something, they are considered guilty and guilty for life, even if they have paid their debt to society in full…and it is no coincidence this type of mindset is so prevalent today.

Its VERY VERY tough to fully forgive someone, especially for these kinds of things, there is a popular belief it should be held against them for life, in one way or another

I am somewhat confused.

The articles on this in the secular media state that in this historic case involving a priest, Pope Francis condemned the perpetrator 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".

That hardly strikes me as leniency to offenders or a cover-up. The priest has actually been handed over to the civil authorities to be tried and within the Church has been banned from public ministry and going near children.

The sticking point appears to be defrocking but the relevant church officials have contended that it is better not to defrock so as to be able to keep the offenders under supervision rather than allowing them to vanish into the secular world and perhaps go on to commit offences.


For that reason, I am refraining from any premature judgements and certainly will wait to hear more about this from reputable sources before I make up my mind.

The facts as actually presented do not seem to support the claims in the title.

I am not convinced, either. Especially considering the source. I’m just stating that even IF the Pope did something sinful here, the personal sins of the Pope do not automatically invalidate the claims of the Church itself to be the true Church.

I think many people who write about this issue, see the Catholic priesthood as just another job, and so, if a priest abuses his job and uses it to help him commit crimes, then he obviously deserves to be fired, just as a teacher who abuses a student should be fired.

Interestingly, it seems that even in such cases, the union will often defend the teacher, or the school itself might sweep it under the rug. Not all cases, especially these days, but there are certainly examples of them.

Of course some teachers do get handed over to the law and are prosecuted, But I recall Mary Kay Letourneau becoming a pseudo-celebrity and have her wedding to her victim broadcast on TV. Now, the fact that her victim also made the rounds of talk show circuits, and really did NOT seem negatively affected at all, likely did contribute to all this.

On the other hand, there was a recent case in NY of a woman who abused a student, and was fired, but I’m not sure if she actually got prosecuted or served any jail time. She had his child, and had a “relationship” with the victim for a while, but in the end, he murdered her, as well as the child. Now, some might argue that he was disturbed already, and would have eventually murdered someone even without what she did, but for me that makes it even worse, to take advantage of someone who was emotionally disturbed.

Of course, your correct. :thumbsup:




In rape generally, the number of victims is regarded as multiple of the number of reports. No doubt there are falsely accused priests. But there is no evidence at all, nor any claim from any source, that this number is material. But sadly there is incontrovertible and undisputed evidence of widespread clergy abuse and of mishandling by bishops that Archbishop Fisher (Sydney) described as criminally negligent.

The large peak of abuse is believed to be decades old, but the typical time for victims to come forward is also 30 years. The current focus of the Australian Royal Commission is not rehashing old (or more recent) cases but examining why this abuse occurred, and what measures have been or need to be put in place to protect children.

I watched much of the webcast and read much of the transcriptions of the Commission last week. The questioning was hard and direct as would be expected, but no one was vilified.

It sure seems like a reasonable move to me. A lifetime removed from the source of his sin should pretty much be sufficient as far as the Church is concerned. If he should serve time in prison, even life, that is for the state to decide.

The Catholic Church is better being misunderstood by society for being too lenient than fail in its duty of mercy. We will never please the world.

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