One day after Archbishop Robert Rivas read out a notice to Saint Lucian parishioners concerning “inappropriate behavior” of a priest, the head of the Roman Catholic Church was more forthright in his approach on sexual abuse. On Monday, Pope Francis met with victims of sexual abuse at the Vatican.
It has been reported that six victims, two each from Ireland, Britain and Germany, were expected to attend the pope’s private morning mass in his Vatican residence and then meet him afterwards.
Since his installation, Pope Francis has gone on record as saying that there would be zero tolerance for anyone in the Catholic Church who abused children, including bishops. He went further to compare sexual abuse of children by priests to a “satanic mass.”
The pope has also been open with his sentiments on homosexuality. In a recent interview he said that the catechism, or the Roman Catholic Church’s official doctrine book, condemns homosexual acts, but he called on the Church to love gays and lesbians, who “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”
Still Pope Francis’ mass and meeting on Monday is coming under fire in some quarters. Victims groups have said the pope had a spotty record of dealing with abuse cases in Argentina when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and victims from that country wrote to ask him why they were not invited.
“This fact pains us,” four victims of sexual abuse by priests said in a letter sent to the pope and made available to Reuters.
The Vatican says 3,420 credible accusations of sexual abuse by priests have been referred to it in the past 10 years and 824 clerics have been defrocked. The church in the United States has paid $2.5bn in compensation to victims.
Over the years there have been several instances here in Saint Lucia of Catholic priests sexually abusing young boys and being engaged in homosexual activity. The local clergy have been by and large silent on the matter, in some cases issuing vague press statements to the media, sweeping the matters under the rug or praying that they’ll go away.
In the most recent case, the press release from the office of the Archbishop reads:
“Allegations of inappropriate behaviour incompatible with the priesthood, were brought against a priest of the Archdiocese of Castries.” What exactly are “allegations of inappropriate behaviour incompatible with the priesthood”? The statement went on to say that using the mechanisms at its disposal, The Archdiocese initiated a process of investigation and that the accuser and the accused priest were interviewed.
Further, that the Archdiocesan review board, after serious deliberations on the report filed by the delegate, concluded that the accused priest, in his relationship with the accuser, acted (here’s that word again) “inappropriately.”
According to the statement, the local Catholic church considers the behaviour a serious matter, and has taken the decision to withdraw the priest from pastoral ministry with immediate effect.
“The priest has been put on administrative leave. The accuser has also been offered counseling support, the statement also says.
From all we have heard, the “inappropriate behaviour” discovered by the church was a homosexual relationship between the accused priest and another man. From all we know too, the “accused” priest has been flown to the United States by the church.
Meanwhile in the absence of more information, the Saint Lucian public continues to speculate.
In the past, local Catholic priests accused of sexual misconduct, and in some cases even impregnating parishioners, have simply been transferred to another parish. It’s reasonably well known that another popular local priest is alleged to have committed such a misdeed, which of course is a grave sin, according to Catholic doctrine.
The question now is whether the Roman Catholic Church itself acted “inappropriately” or indeed illegally in the manner in which it handled the most recent “situation.”
Read more by STAR Publisher Rick Wayne in Saturday’s STAR.