The Catholic church has done nothing to warrant being forgiven, says a sex abuse victim.
Pope Francis. — Associated Press file photo
“What Pope Francis said doesn’t mean a thing,” said the Mount Cashel survivor, who does not want his name used.
“He can bow his head, shuffle, look at the ground as he is walking, but this is nonsense.”
Last week in Vatican City, Pope Francis asked for forgiveness from people who were sexually abused by priests, and vowed that there will be no going back in the church’s fight to protect children.
Francis made the off-the-cuff remarks after coming under criticism from victims’ advocacy groups for a perceived lack of attention to the problem and ongoing demands that he sanction bishops who covered up for pedophiles.
In his remarks to members of the International Catholic Child Bureau, a French Catholic network of organizations that protects children’s rights, Francis said he felt “called to take it upon myself” and “ask forgiveness” for the evil that some priests had committed against children.
“The church is aware of this damage,” he was quoted as saying by Vatican Radio. “We don’t want to take a step back in dealing with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, I think we must be even stronger. You don’t play around with the lives of children.”
But forgiving the church is not something the St. John’s senior — who was physically and sexually abused at the former Mount Cashel orphanage as a boy in the late 1940s into the 1950s — can do based on the way he feels the church has reacted to abuse victims’ claims and their anguish.
“We, in Newfoundland and Labrador, the survivors of sexual assault at the hands of the Christian Brothers and Catholic priests, have been in a constant struggle for the past 30 years to have redress. Every obstacle allowable under the law and outside the law have been used to deny our legal rights,” the former Mount Cashel resident said.
The one thing that would prove atonement, the man said, is for the Vatican to open all church files and archives to the public for scrutiny.
“Then maybe we can see they are really serious,” he said.
The Catholic lay order Christian Brothers last year settled with abuse victims in Canada and the U.S., claims that included Mount Cashel residents.
The Roman Catholic church in St. John’s has said it did not have direct supervision of the Christian Brothers. Civil action regarding abuse at the orphanage, as well as unrelated cases involving Catholic priests, continues against the archdiocese, which has also said in the past it has been working as quickly as it can to address all claims of abuse against it.
The former Mount Cashel resident said he remains hopeful for resolution in the outstanding civil action by victims.
“Every time it comes up, it’s like mud slung at you,” he said.
“It’s like a ceaseless river that runs on.”