Yesterday Pope Francis met with six victims of sexual abuse by priests, saying a private mass for them and meeting with them individually. I was one of a group of women who were sexually abused by a priest in the 1960s and have written a memoir, Thursday's Child, about our experiences and how they have informed my life.
If I had a chance to talk to the Pope, I would ask him why it took him so long to focus on acts that wreaked havoc in so many lives. I would ask why as an Archbishop in Argentina he never met with victims of abuse, never offered apologies or money for counseling. I would tell him that when we went to see the bishop, we didn't even get to see him, that his representative focused on whether we planned to tell anyone else, that he offered no help beyond the offer to pray for our souls.
I would ask the Pope why, when he preached a homily to the six victims, he begged forgiveness for “sins of omission on the part of church leaders.” Church leaders sinned not just by omission but by commission. They moved pedophile priests from one parish to another in a shell game of concealment. They sent priests on retreats for rehabilitation and then back into parish work where they had daily access to new victims. .
I would tell the Pope that I understand how hard it is to move a monolith like the Church and that I admire him for taking Francis of Assisi as his guide, for living in a modest apartment and choosing a Ford over the traditional papal Mercedes, and for chastising bishops for “living like princes.”
I would say that I want to believe he will rid the Church of abusive priests. I would ask him to revise canon law so that bishops are required to report priests suspected of abuse to the police so that they are brought to justice and tried like ordinary men.
I would tell him that healing from abuse has been a long journey, that the journey would have been easier if the Church had helped me when I asked for help. I would say that I am 68 now, but what happened to me in my teens is still with me.