Pontiff’s mixed message: Time to mind the language

Pope Francis set the right tone in previewing the Vatican’s summit on clerical sexual abuse when he told the Church’s hierarchy that what is expected of them is not only condemnation of the crimes against children and teenagers but also tangible action to ensure that the cover-up culture is closed down and that justice is done.

Pontiff’s mixed message: Time to mind the language

Pope Francis set the right tone in previewing the Vatican’s summit on clerical sexual abuse when he told the Church’s hierarchy that what is expected of them is not only condemnation of the crimes against children and teenagers but also tangible action to ensure that the cover-up culture is closed down and that justice is done.

However, his messages around this toxic topic run the risk of being more than mixed.

While the Church’s failings had to be denounced and remedied, he said when meeting pilgrims in Italy, those who condemned the institution “without love” were linked to the devil.

He said “one cannot live a whole life accusing, accusing, accusing the Church”.

Those who did this were “the friends, cousins and relatives of the devil”.

It’s an outstanding denunciation that is unlikely to be taken on the chin by those, many of them faithful Catholics, who have spent large parts of their lives bringing to light the crimes of clergy who abused their power, and of those bishops and cardinals who turned a blind eye because their loyalty to the institution and its reputation took priority over their responsibility to children, who as Psalm 127 has it, are a heritage from the Lord.

If not them, who does the pontiff have in mind when he speaks of the devil’s mortal mates?

The European Council’s president Donald Tusk recently spoke about the special place in hell reserved for unprepared Brexiteers.

It’s time to leave Satan out of our discourses.

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