Pope Francis and Criminal Omission

A divorced woman with two teenage children remarried a man who in time started sexually abusing her daughter. Even though the daughter informed the mother of the abuse, the mother did nothing. When the daughter revealed the abuse to one of her high school teachers, it led not only to the arrest of her stepfather, but it also resulted in the mother losing custody of her daughter.

The abuse the daughter experienced in this case is similar to the sex abuse of many minors, seminarians and young adults in the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, most Church officials who failed to investigate and report clerical sex abuse continue to enjoy “full legal and physical custody” of those whom they failed to protect. 

The action taken by the court against the mother involves what in criminal law constitutes “omission.”Essentially, omission occurs when a person fails to intervene and take corrective action when there is a rebuttable presumption of responsibility of care for the endangered party.

As soon as the mother was informed by her daughter that she was being sexually abused by her stepfather, she immediately should have investigated the allegation. By failing to investigate and report the behavior to authorities, the mother herself became implicated and was an accessory to her husband’s criminal actions.

While this example of omission involved just one victim, consider a case involving multiple victims. If you are the archbishop of a large archdiocese and you receive multiple reports of sexual abuse, what should happen to you if you fail to investigate and report sexual predators to civil authorities?

Is this not what happened when Abp. Jorge Bergoglio received reports of sexual abuse involving children at the Antonio Próvolo Institute for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Children in Mendoza, Argentina? It is reported that one of the victims insisted that Pope Francis, before his election, knew about the sexual abuse at the institute. She stated that many of the victims came forward and tried to meet with then-Cdl. Bergoglio to no avail. 

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