Those hoping that Pope Francis will use his American stage to make a strong statement on the clergy sex abuse scandal have been thus far disappointed.
The pontiff referenced the topic only obliquely when he spoke in Washington, D.C., Wednesday to nearly every American bishop.
In his speech, Pope Francis did not utter the words “child sex abuse” – instead mentioning “difficult moments,” the “pain of recent years” and “such crimes.”
The pope praised the bishops for their courage in overcoming their personal struggles in the wake of the scandal.
But advocates say Francis failed to address the role of some of those bishops in covering up the abuse, and they don’t think he adequately acknowledged a very important group.
“[There’s] really no concern that I could see in that paragraph for the actual victims of childhood sexual abuse nor the continued suffering that the now-adult victims are enduring to this day,” said Sister Maureen Paul Turlish of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in Delaware.
Turlish is a founding member of Catholic Whistleblowers and sits on the board of Voice of the Faithful; both groups of active Catholics criticize church hierarchy on the issue.
Advocates hope Francis will make a stronger statement on Saturday morning when Francis addresses bishops in Philadelphia, but Turlish said they aren’t going to hold their breath.
Turlish also criticized Francis for allowing former Philadelphia Archbishop Cardinal Justin Rigali to join him during his U.S. visit. Last week, Catholic Whistleblowers asked the pope’s new tribunal on clergy abuse to investigate Rigali for his role in keeping about three dozen suspected abusers in ministry.
Below is Pope Francis’ full passage that alludes to clergy abuse:
“I am also conscious of the courage with which you have faced difficult moments in the recent history of the Church in this country without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice. Nor have you been afraid to divest whatever is unessential in order to regain the authority and trust which is demanded of ministers of Christ and rightly expected by the faithful. I realize how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you and I have supported your generous commitment to bring healing to victims – in the knowledge that in healing we too are healed – and to work to ensure that such crimes will never be repeated.”