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Pope's Historic Visit Reignites Church Sex Scandal Debate

Pope Francis' U.S. visit sparks mixed feelings among church sexual-abuse victims and their advocates about his response to the scandal. Credit: Patrick Nijhuis/freeimages.com
Pope Francis' U.S. visit sparks mixed feelings among church sexual-abuse victims and their advocates about his response to the scandal. Credit: Patrick Nijhuis/freeimages.com
September 25, 2015

NEW YORK - The historic U.S. visit of Pope Francis has refocused attention on the Catholic Church's sex-abuse scandal. Although the pontiff has vowed to root out child sex predators from the Church, which has cost billions in legal expenses, victims of clergy sexual abuse want the pope to do more.

In New York, Michael Mack, 58, who says he was abused by a priest when he was 11, hopes to bring more attention to the issue this week. He has written a one-man play, "Conversations with My Molester."

"I truly believe that his intention is to heal around this process," Mack said. "And since this play of mine really is all about healing - about my own personal healing journey, but also the journeys that it reflects for so many survivors - that it seemed like the timing was a natural."

Mack, who began practicing Catholicism again about seven years ago, said reform efforts such as a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would give church sexual-abuse victims a true chance to heal. Mack's play opened in New York City on Thursday, the same day Pope Francis arrived in the city.

Some have noted that the pope's strong stance on this issue contrasts sharply with efforts by some Catholic bishops, who are fighting legislation in New York and other states that would give child sex-abuse victims more time to sue their abusers. Marci Hamilton, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, said she thinks bishops and their lobbying groups are standing in the way of justice.

"They are not only blocking the cases involving their own victims, but they're also blocking the incest cases and the school cases," she said. "So that, I think, is something that the pope needs to address."

The Church argues that extending the statute of limitations on these cases would allow other cases based on weak evidence to further drain its finances. Up to 100,000 U.S. children may have been victims, according to insurance experts named in a paper presented to the Vatican in 2012.

More info about the statute-of-limitations cases is online at sol-reform.com.

Nia Hamm, Public News Service - NY