EVANSTON, Ill. --- Following a grand jury report in Pennsylvania that found the Catholic church had covered up widespread sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy, Pope Francis has issued a letter to Catholics addressing the issue and decrying the abuse of power.

Christina Traina is a professor and chair of religious studies in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern. She studies Christian theology and ethics with emphasis on Roman Catholic and feminist thought. She can be reached at ctraina@northwestern.edu.

Quote from Professor Traina 

“People the world over will appreciate the unusually strong language in Pope Francis’s Aug. 20 letter on clerical child sexual abuse. He compassionately admits that ‘no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient’ to overcome the ‘deep wounds of pain and powerlessness’ that sexual abuse inflicted.

“However, the letter is insensitive in other respects. It only obliquely acknowledges bishops’ active collusions and cover-ups. It does not mention the episcopal culture that promotes this behavior. It calls the ‘entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of penance and prayer’ without pointing out that bishops and priests are disproportionately more responsible than ordinary laypeople for the crisis. 

“Francis’s letter is powerful and prophetic. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s 2015 Good Friday statement was also powerful and prophetic. Power and prophecy need to be followed by careful but decisive action.”

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