Citing an “exceptional amount of damage,” Pope Francis laicized 88-year-old Rev. Fernando Karadima, who had been previously sentenced to a life of prayer and penance. According to the AP,
The “penance and prayer” sanction has been the Vatican’s punishment of choice for elderly priests convicted of raping and molesting children. It has long been criticized by victims as too soft and essentially an all-expenses-paid retirement, and Karadima’s whistleblowers had pressed for it to be toughened.
It’s very unusual for the pope to defrock a priest, which is one of the reasons the Catholic faithful are embittered by the slow and soft treatment of child abusers by Rome. The pope’s decision seems aimed at projecting a “zero-tolerance” attitude toward sex abuse. It is the right call to get rid of these abusers and put them out of shepherding positions. But why just one priest? There must be hundreds, maybe thousands who are serving their “penance and prayer” sentences. The pope could do the same thing to them in order to send a strong message. Laicizing one priest is hardly a signal that Pope Francis is serious about child abuse.
If the pope wants to send the faithful a sign that he is ready to do his job, then Theodore McCarrick should be thrown out of his cushy mansion and also defrocked along with every single cleric who abused children or hid the abuse from the faithful. Punishing one priest after all these months of tens of thousands of parishioners begging for him to do something is like a slap in the face.
Further, there is the problem of Don Piccoli, who is in a Vatican hospital near Verona and has confessed on camera to raping children. Why has he not been laicized? He is not only admittedly guilty, but unrepentant! You can watch him laugh and smile as he describes abusing children while holding a rosary.
Catholic people are not going to be satisfied until all the predators are removed completely from their positions of moral authority. These clerics rejected their holy orders the moment they harmed a child. There is no excuse for the amount of time it has taken for Pope Francis to start moving to cleanse the church, and it is debatable whether this is a sincere attempt or just a bone to throw at his critics. The idea that the damage a priest has to do to a child must reach the level of “exceptional” before he’s defrocked is absurd! What level of damage is acceptable for a priest to inflict on a child in the pope’s view? It sure seems like a very high threshold, considering the lack of action in the face of the Pennsylvania and Chilean reports.
Cardinal Wuerl, who was revealed to have covered up and paid off abusers in letters he wrote, has still not had his resignation accepted by the pope. And resignation isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to allow these men — who committed crimes they never paid for — to go live a life of luxury in a million-dollar estate. They have defrauded the church, robbed its parishioners, raped children, or covered up for rapists and nothing else will do but to send them to live a real life of penance separated from a lifetime pension or retirement package.
This kind of severe action would send shockwaves through the corrupt clerical culture that never thought they would be held accountable. Take away a couple hundred retirement plans and send them to work at Home Depot and the remaining bad actors will either repent and reform or leave on their own accord.
The victims of Karadima, while relieved he’s finally out of the priesthood, were still frustrated. “Karadima could not have committed his abuses if he did not have a network of protection that reached the top of the hierarchy of the Chilean Catholic Church, which to this day has not recognized what it did, that is, protect and cover up the abuser Karadima and abandon his victims,” they said.
It’s the same all over the world. A real clean-up is going to result in hundreds if not thousands of laicized clerics.