NPR : News

Filed Under:

Critics Wait To See How Pope Francis Deals With Sex Abuse Scandal

Pope Francis has now been installed and the world's Catholics are looking to see where he will lead the church. But one man in Rome has been trying to make sure the Vatican also deals with the church's troubled past.

David Clohessy, who says he was a victim of sexual abuse at a young age by a Catholic priest, is the director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. By his count, he held 15 news conferences in Rome in the weeks leading up to the conclave at the Vatican.

Some of them at the Orange Hotel were packed; others were empty.

Clohessy soldiered on, and SNAP has mailed letters and sent faxes to the Vatican, hoping for a meeting or some type of response from Pope Francis. The group feels the issue of sexual abuse might fade away amid the fascination with a newly elected pope who has charmed the public and the media.

A report this week in The Washington Post said there was no evidence that Pope Francis, previously the Archbishop of Buenos Aires and known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, tried to cover up sex abuse cases. However, he remained silent after a priest under his leadership was convicted of sex abuse in 2009, the report noted.

Accusations Against Jesuits

Pope Francis is a Jesuit, and SNAP says that many Jesuit priests, mostly teachers in the U.S. and abroad, have been accused of sexually abusing children.

According to SNAP and an affiliate organization, BishopAccountability.org, nearly 60 Jesuit priests in the U.S. from the Jesuits' Northwest Province (which covers Alaska, Washington, Idaho, and Montana) were reported for child sexual abuse by 700 victims from 2002 to 2011. The groups allege the abuse was particularly severe in Alaska.

Clohessy said Pope Francis has to take up the issue of sexual abuse by priests and hold them accountable.

"Gestures, like taking the name Francis, or carrying your own luggage, or living in a small apartment, however encouraging they might be, we can't as responsible adults be so moved by these positive first impressions that we forget about the children who are being assaulted, right here and right now," Clohessy said.

Recalling a friend who as a child had been sexually abused by a Jesuit priest in St. Louis (a school that Clohessy's father attended), he said, "I've talked to many who've gone to Jesuit schools and feel incredibly grateful about the education they got."

Clohessy then added, "and yet their positive memories and their positive feelings towards their school are now completely polluted by the fact that they know that one or two or five other classmates were undergoing this horror while they were flourishing and learning and thriving and making lifelong bonds of friendship."

He tried to keep his composure as he answered, but his handkerchief could not hold back the tears.

"I cry every single day," Clohessy said.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Star Wars' Editors Defy Hollywood Conventions

In a film industry often dominated by men, there's at least one exception: Many editors are women. Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey speak about their work on the new Star Wars.
NPR

Florida Says Its Fruits, Vegetables Are Safe From Invasive Fruit Fly

Since September, Florida has been fighting an infestation of the Oriental fruit fly, an invasive pest that threatened more than 400 crops. The state declared the insect eradicated as of Saturday.
NPR

GOP Debate: Scalia's Vacancy; Trump Puts Jeb On The Defense

Republicans let loose on each other in last night's South Carolina debate. Rachel Martin asks NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson about it.
NPR

West Point Students' Plan To Counter ISIS Online Strategy

The State Department sponsored a contest to find the best ways to combat ISIS propaganda online. A group of cadets from West Point got second prize. Rachel Martin speaks with team member CJ Drew.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.