Pope Francis held a four-day summit in the Vatican from Feb. 21 to Feb. 24 that addressed the growing awareness of widespread sexual abuse among the clergy. As recent cases in Australia, Chile, and Pennsylvania exposed decades of cover-ups in the ministry, the pope used the forum as a call to action, though many victims present accused him of failing to deliver a “zero-tolerance approach” to perpetrators.
The Epoch Times took to the streets to ask people in New York City for their thoughts on the issue.
Javier Damien in New York on Feb. 25, 2019. (Stuart Liess/The Epoch Times)
Javier Damien, 57, lawyer
It’s not surprising to me; it’s been going on for thousands of years. Unfortunately, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has been stalling it every step of the way.
I grew up a Catholic, went to Catholic schools, but it’s not surprising because the older I’ve got, I’ve realized how so many people in power choose to live by their own rules; they don’t care about being challenged or even abiding by the law.
It’s awful. There’s really no other way to put it.
Let me put it this way: I’m a criminal defense lawyer—they’ve got no defense.
Dorian Campos in New York on Feb. 25, 2019. (Stuart Liess/The Epoch Times)
Dorian Campos, 20, dog walker
It makes me feel like there’s no hope. It’s been going on for so long and they’ve been covering it up. It’s unbelievable. Very traumatic for the victims.
It’s not the first time we’ve heard this, but still, in this era in time, it’s supposed to be about change, and it seems like nothing’s changing in that aspect.
Nathaniel Brown, 29, filmmaker
The Vatican is obviously a major institution. It has a responsibility to all its constituents to be transparent in a way that the church has been able to be for hundreds of years.
Obviously, priests and cardinals should be held to the same standards as anyone else, especially if they pride themselves on holding a godly standard—even more so, in that case, they should be holding themselves accountable.
It’s a reflection of an endemic problem, not only in this country, but in many countries. So many organizations, whether they be religious or not, have too much power concentrated in too small a space. [Being] under the guise of religion in the United States, [it] gives them some kind of perceived immunity, or that they should be treated in a different way than other people, which I find a bit strange since this country is founded on a basis of law that is equal for everyone.
I think there are definitely nonreligious organizations where similar things have happened, maybe not as widespread.
Priests are really praised on the trust and faith of the people, so in this situation, a lot the people are extra vulnerable because they are supposed to be caretakers.
But I think, as we’ve seen in the past couple of years, sexual abuse is rampant in many organizations and walks of life, etc., and I think that this is only one marker of many issues that need to be recalibrated.
That’s how it is these days: You find a crisis relief team, you wait for it to blow over, you say, “We’re going to do this and that,” and then no actual solution comes.
You would hope that in the age of internet transparency that people are able to follow up on that. However, as we’ve seen, that transparency is often misguided or misled.
The seeming transparency is then used to circumnavigate or rebut the truth.
Is it going to get solved? I don’t know, right? But, what I will say is that I think it’s a positive because at least the coverage of this allows those victims to feel more empowered to have agency to speak out, and in those situations, which are already very tough situations, to be able to talk about and to be able to confront—they can at least feel slightly as if they have some kind of community or support, whereas in the past the weight of shame that is associated with it made it a situation where we were never going to make progress because the victims didn’t want to get involved.
I think the conference was definitely stepping in a positive direction.
Catherine in New York on Feb. 27, 2019. (Stuart Liess/The Epoch Times)
Catherine, 58, psychotherapist
It’s terrible. Everyone should be accountable for their actions, and we should be held accountable through our laws in my opinion.
Peter Colquhoun, 63, painter
It really doesn’t surprise me that all sorts of shenanigans are going on and have been for years.
Maybe there’s some connection between the conviction of the Australian cardinal, George Pell and the conference—who knows?
Chiara Deiana, 23, student, from Italy
I’ve never heard about any of this. It’s shocking. How do we stop this?
It makes me feel like I wish I could do something to help.
All interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity.