There is widespread agreement that dealing with the abuse scandal needs to be a top priority for Pope Francis. And so far as I can tell, Pope Francis has never done or said anything about a particular case or the situation in general that has received public notice. Astonishingly enough, he seems to be a virtual tabula rasa when it comes to the biggest crisis to hit the Catholic Church since the Reformation.
The explanation may have to do with the fact that the scandal has touched Argentina very little. The only case of note occurred in 2002 when Archbishop Edgardo Storni of Santa Fe resigned after a book accused him of abusing at least 47 young seminarians. (The Vatican had investigated Storni in 1994 and found insufficient evidence to discipline him.) An Argentine writer who talked with then Archbishop Bergoglio about Storni’s situation at the time of his resignation recalls him saying, “The justice will take care of him.” The Argentine episcopate was then paying for the lawyers who represented Storni.
If Francis wants to make as much of a mark by his handling of the abuse scandal as he has by his simple lifestyle, he’s got a ready-made opportunity. Last September, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City was convicted of a criminal misdemeanor for failing to report one of his priests for possible sexual abuse of children. Thus far, neither the Vatican nor the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has so much as issued a statement on the matter.
If Francis removes Finn from office, as he should, he will signal to the world that it’s a new day in the Church. This is an easy call to make. Let’s see if he can make it.