WATCH: Zero Tolerance?


From Rorate Caeli: Pope Francis protection of criminal sex offenders, and protection of religious superiors who themselves protect criminal sex offenders.

Bishops and religious superiors who protect criminal sexual abusers are themselves criminals, so Pope Francis’s protection and promotion of such individuals is itself a protection of criminals. It has a particularly damaging effect, because it tells criminals of this stamp that protecting sexual abusers not only is ‘safe’ with him, but it will also probably lead to promotion. Pope Francis’s promotion of these criminals has been so extensive and over so long a time-frame, both before and after his election to the papacy, that it can only be seen as an abiding disposition and an habitual policy. He has appointed large numbers of these persons  to the college of cardinals, thus giving them significant influence over the election of the next pope, and has installed them in the commanding heights of ecclesiastical power in the Roman Curia and the American Catholic church.

The manner of Pope Francis’s protection of these criminals aggravates his offence. He has repeatedly and brazenly lied about his actions and slandered victims of these crimes.

In addition to the specific cases recorded below, it should be added that Pope Francis abolished the moderately effective procedures for dealing with cases of sexual abuse of minors that had been instituted by Pope Benedict XVI, and replaced them with ineffective regulations, personnel, and organisations that brought to a halt the process of effectively dealing with sexual abuse in the Church. Francis accompanied this sabotage of justice with frequent public pronouncements about the supreme importance of bringing sexual abuse to an end.

Pope Francis had a record of protecting sexual abusers before he became pope, when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires (1998-2013) and president of the Argentine bishops’ conference (2005-2011). The worst example of this protection is noted here, as it exemplifies his character and modus operandi.

Fr Julio Grassi

Fr Julio Grassi founded and ran Happy Children homes for street children in Argentina. He sexually abused boys at these institutions. In 2009 he was convicted by an Argentinian court of abusing one of them. At great expense, Archbishop Bergoglio commissioned a 2,600 page report designed to exonerate Fr. Grassi by slandering his victims. The report was intended to persuade the Argentinian Supreme Court judges of Grassi’s innocence, and was condemned by the court as an attempt to interfere with justice. When challenged about the report, Archbishop Bergoglio lied in declaring that he had no involvement with it. Grassi managed to avoid prison until 2013, thanks in part to Bergoglio’s intervention. Grassi testified that he has the personal support of Bergoglio.[1]

After his election to the papacy in 2013, Pope Francis protected and/or promoted many sexual abusers and bishops who covered up sexual abuse. Some outstanding examples are the following:

Cardinal Godfried Danneels

Cardinal Danneels defended the catechism textbook ‘Roeach’, which was used in Belgium under his authority and which promoted pedophilia, and refused to have it altered or removed. He acted to protect the pedophile Bishop Roger Vangheluwe after it became known that Vangheluwe sexually abused his own nephew, beginning when the nephew was five years old. When the nephew, then an adult, asked Danneels to take some action against Vangheluwe, Danneels refused, told the nephew to keep quiet about the abuse, and told the nephew that he should acknowledge his own guilt. These actions were public knowledge in 2010. Cardinal Danneels stood at the side of Pope Francis on the balcony of St. Peter’s when the Pope made his first public appearance after his election. Pope Francis named him as one of his personal appointments to both the first and second Synod on the Family. At his death in 2019, Pope Francis praised him as a ‘zealous pastor’ who ‘served the Church with dedication’.[2]

Cardinal Jozef de Kesel

In 2014 Cardinal de Kesel, then bishop of Bruges, appointed Father Tom Flamez as a pastor after he had been convicted of sexual abuse. He did not remove Fr. Antoon Stragier from ministry until 2015, although Stragier’s crimes were known to the diocese in 2004. Pope Francis chose Bishop de Kesel as Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels in November 2015 and named him a Cardinal in November 2016.[3]

Cardinal Reinhard Marx

Cardinal Marx admitted to having covered up many sexual abuse cases when he was bishop of Trier, and offered his resignation to Pope Francis in 2021, giving this coverup as the reason. Pope Francis refused his resignation, and Marx continues as the metropolitan archbishop of Munich and Freising.[4]

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor

In 2008 a woman told English Church authorities that O’Connor had sexually abused her when she was between 13 and 14 years old. The woman had previously reported being sexually abused by another English priest, Father Michael Hill, who was subsequently convicted of this crime in a British court. Hill had earlier been removed from ministry after allegations of sexual abuse of minors, but Murphy-O’Connor, then Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, had reinstated Hill to ministry by naming him as chaplain at Gatwick Airport. Hill continued to abuse minors in this post. In 2013 Pope Francis instructed Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller to drop the investigation of Murphy-O’Connor for sexual abuse.[5]

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga

Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga failed to act on numerous accusations of sexual misbehaviour with seminarians on the part of Jose Juan Pineda Fasquelle, auxiliary bishop of Tegucigalpa, who resigned after the accusations were made public. Maradiaga refused to investigate complaints made by 48 out of 180 seminarians about homosexual misbehaviour at the Honduras seminary, and attacked the complainants instead. Pope Francis named Maradiaga as a member and coordinator of the council of nine cardinals that he set up in 2013 to advise him in the government of the universal church. On 15 October 2020, Pope Francis renewed Rodriguez Maradiaga’s appointment as Coordinator of the Council of Cardinal Advisers.[6]

Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick

Former Cardinal McCarrick had a decades-long career of grooming and pressuring seminarians to engage in homosexual relations with him. Pope Francis was personally informed of this behaviour in 2013, and was told that Pope Benedict had placed restrictions upon him. McCarrick had made frequent trips to Argentina to visit seminarians when Pope Francis was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Pope Francis freed McCarrick of the restrictions on his activities that had been imposed by Pope Benedict XVI as a result of reports of his crimes, and used him for many important tasks, including trips as a representative of the Holy See to Israel, Armenia, China, Iran and Cuba. He accompanied Pope Francis on his trips to Israel and Cuba. He was only removed from ministry in 2018, after his predation on seminarians was widely reported in the media.[7]

Pope Francis has appointed a circle of men linked to former cardinal McCarrick to important posts. These include Cardinals Robert McElroy, Joseph Tobin, Wilton Gregory, and Kevin Farrell, described below.

Cardinal Blaise Cupich

Pope Francis named Cupich Archbishop of Chicago in 2014, appointing him a cardinal and a member of the Congregation for Bishops in 2016. McCarrick had lobbied for his appointment in Chicago.[8]

Cardinal Joseph Tobin

Pope Francis appointed Tobin, Archbishop of Indianapolis, as a cardinal and as Archbishop of Newark in 2016. McCarrick had been his predecessor as Archbishop of Newark from 1986 to 2000, committing many crimes while in that post. The Archdiocese of Newark had made a payment in 2005 to a seminarian abused by McCarrick. Tobin refused to respond to a complaint about abuse by McCarrick sent to him in 2018 by Michael Reading, a former seminarian.[9]

Cardinal Wilton Gregory

Cardinal Gregory worked with McCarrick on drafting the 2002 Dallas Charter, which provided procedures for American Catholic bishops for responding to accusations of sexual abuse by clerics. The charter’s procedures were ineffective, conspicuously omitting any provision for dealing with accusations against bishops. When bishop of Belleville, Illinois, Gregory was held in contempt of court for refusing to release the records of a priest accused of sexual crimes. While Archbishop of Atlanta, Georgia, he successfully opposed legislation that would extend the statue of limitations for lawsuits claiming damages for sexual abuse. Pope Francis made him Archbishop of Washington in 2019 and named him cardinal in 2020.[10]

Cardinal Robert McElroy

McElroy was appointed Bishop of San Diego in 2015. He was a close associate of former Cardinal McCarrick. In 2014, Rachel Mastrogiacomo reported that Fr. Jacob Bertrand, a priest of the San Diego diocese, had subjected her to satanic ritual abuse. Other women made similar reports. Bertrand admitted his guilt to the diocesan authorities. In response to these reports, Betrand was simply moved to another parish. Only when Mastrogiacomo went to the police did McElroy remove him from ministry. The diocese of San Diego falsely claimed to have no files on Bertrand’s activities, and added that even if they had any files they would not provide them. In 2018, Bertrand was convicted by an American court of criminal sexual misconduct. He had earlier confessed to the apostolic administrator of the diocese of San Diego that he had raped Mastrogiacomo while celebrating Mass and engaging in perverse rituals. In 2016 the clerical sexual abuse expert Richard Sipe informed McElroy that McCarrick was a serial abuser. He remained silent and took no action. Pope Francis made McElroy, a suffragan bishop of Los Angeles, a cardinal in 2022.[11]

Cardinal Donald Wuerl

Cardinal Wuerl allowed Fr. George Zirwas to continue in ministry after learning that he had committed numerous crimes of sexual abuse. Wuerl resigned as Archbishop of Washington after his actions in this and in other cases of sexual abuse were criticised by a Pennsylvania grand jury report. When Wuerl resigned Pope Francis praised him for his nobility, kept him in charge of the Archdiocese of Washington as apostolic administrator, and retained him as a member of the Congregation for Bishops.[12]

Bishop Juan Barros Madrid

Barros covered up the grave sexual crimes of Fr. Fernando Karadima, who was convicted of sexual abuse by a Church tribunal in 2011. Pope Francis appointed Barros bishop of Osorno in 2015 despite Barros himself objecting to the appointment, despite the opposition of the Chilean bishops, and despite strong protests from the faithful. Pope Francis denounced the  critics of Barros as slanderers. Bishop Barros resigned in 2018 amid a worsening crisis of sexual abuse cases in Chile.[13]

Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa

Cardinal Errazuriz also protected Fr. Fernando Karadima and attempted to silence his victims. In 2013 and 2014, together with Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, his successor as Archbishop of Santiago, he attempted to prevent Juan Carlos Cruz, one of Karadima’s victims, from being appointed to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Pope Francis appointed Errazuriz to his Council of Cardinals after the crimes of Karadima came to light. He remains a cardinal.[14]

Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello

Ezzati protected both Karadima and Fr. Óscar Muñoz, who was convicted of repeated sexual abuse and rape of children. He tried to stop the appointment of Juan Carlos Cruz, one of Karadima’s victims, to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. He submitted his resignation as archbishop of Santiago, in 2016 and again in 2018, but Pope Francis refused to accept it; Francis only accepted Ezzati’s resignation in 2019, the day after the Supreme Court of Chile rejected Ezzati’s petition to dismiss the civil case against him for protecting Muñoz. He remains a cardinal.[15]

Bishop Gustavo Óscar Zanchetta

Zanchetta was named by Pope Francis as bishop of Oran in Argentina in 2013. Zanchetta engaged in misconduct of a homosexual character while a bishop, including the sexual harassment of seminarians. Photographic evidence of this was submitted to the Holy See in 2015. Zanchetta resigned from his diocese in 2017, after which Pope Francis named him as assessor of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, the Vatican bank. This post had not existed prior to Zanchetta’s appointment. Zanchetta was sentenced to four and a half years in jail in Argentina for sexual assault of seminarians in 2022. There has been no canonical trial or sentence for these crimes, which have only been punished by the secular courts.[16]

Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer SJ

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith received complaints against Father Gianni Trotta in 2009, and three years later found him guilty of sexually abusing minors. Archbishop Ladaria wrote from the CDF to the bishop of Foggia in 2012, instructing him not to divulge the reasons why Trotta was laicized. Trotta continued to present himself as a priest and coached an under-11 boys’ football team in the province of Foggia, and molested several of its members. Trotta was sentenced to eight years of prison in 2015. Ladaria Ferrer also wrote to Cardinal Philippe Barbarin on behalf of the CDF instructing him to avoid any public scandal in disciplining Fr. Bernard Preynat, who was charged with sexual abuse in France in 2016 and later convicted. In 2018 the French authorities attempted to charge Ladaria Ferrer for attempting to conceal Preynat’s crimes, but the Holy See refused to extradite him. Pope Francis made Ladaria Ferrer head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2017, and appointed him cardinal in 2018.[17]

Fr. Mauro Inzoli 

In 2012, Fr. Inzoli was sentenced to reduction to the lay state by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for sexual abuse of minors, but Pope Francis intervened and lessened the sentence to prayer, penance and removal from public ministry. In 2016 Inzoli was sentenced to five years in prison for eight offences of sexual abuse of children aged 12 to 16 years old between 2004 and 2008. Only then did Pope Francis reduce him to the lay state.[18]

Cardinal Oscar Cantoni

Cantoni was bishop of Crema when multiple complaints of sexual abuse were made against Fr. Mauro Inzoli, a priest of his diocese, from 2010 onwards. In 2011 the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith began proceedings against Inzoli. Cantoni told the faithful of Cremona to not give in to judgments of condemnation of Inzoli. In 2013 Cantoni asked Cardinal Coccopalmerio to intervene with Pope Francis for clemency on behalf of his former priest Fr. Inzoli. The intervention was successful. Cantoni was responsible for covering up the sexual abuse perpetrated on underage boys at the Vatican’s St. Pius X Minor Seminary. Pope Francis made Cantoni a cardinal in 2022.[19]

Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio

Pope Francis appointed Coccopalmerio to the board of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith that reviews appeals from clergy found guilty of sexual abuse of minors. In 2012 Coccopalmerio voted against the reduction of Fr. Mauro Inzoli to the lay state for sexual abuse. Pope Francis appointed Coccopalmerio to represent the Vatican at the 6th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in 2018, and promoted him from cardinal deacon to cardinal priest in 2022.[20]

Archbishop Mario Enrico Delpini

As vicar general of the archdiocese of Milan, Delpini moved Fr. Mauro Galli to a new parish after being informed that Galli had sexually abused a young man. Delpini admitted this in a court deposition in 2014. The Holy See was made aware of this. Pope Francis named him as Archbishop of Milan in 2017.[21]

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández

As Archbishop of La Plata, Fernández publicly defended Fr. Eduardo Lorenzo, after a complaint of sexual abuse of a minor originally made in 2008 emerged in the media. Fernández falsely asserted that the civil and canonical investigation of this complaint had determined that no offence had occurred. He published Lorenzo’s letter accusing the complainants of ‘slanders, insults and defamations’ on the archdiocesan website, and traveled to Lorenzo’s parish to concelebrate a Mass with him in which Lorenzo renewed his commitment to the priesthood. Lorenzo committed suicide the day after being charged with five counts of sexual abuse of minors. Pope Francis appointed Fernández cardinal and head of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2023.[22]

Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard

In 2022, Ricard admitted molesting a 14-year-old girl. He was permitted to keep his status as a cardinal and cardinal-elector, and there was no canonical trial or punishment.[23]

Cardinal Kevin Farrell

In 1978 Farrell was ordained a priest in the Legionaries of Christ, the priestly society that was founded by the criminal sexual predator Marcial Maciel and used to further his crimes. Farrell was a chaplain at the Catholic University of Monterrey in Mexico, the city that was the centre of Maciel’s activities, and was later a general administrator of the Legionaries with responsibilities for seminaries and schools in Italy, Spain and Ireland. He was then incardinated in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and worked as vicar general for the then Cardinal McCarrick, with whom he shared a residence. Farrell claims to have been entirely ignorant of the crimes of both Maciel and McCarrick. These claims are not credible. After becoming pope, Francis appointed Bishop Kevin Farrell as cardinal in 2016, and put him in charge of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, which controls the Vatican’s finances. In 2019 Farrell was named cardinal camerlengo, and in October 2020, Farrell was appointed head of the Commission for Reserved Matters, a Vatican commission that determines which of its economic activities remain confidential. In 2023 Francis appointed Farrell President of the Court of Cassation, which is the supreme court of the Vatican City State.[24]

Fr. Nicola Corradi

Fr. Corradi belongs to the Company of Mary, an Italian religious community that runs schools for deaf children. On December 2013, a group of students from the Italian Provolo Institute in Verona wrote to Pope Francis informing him that they had been sexually abused by Fr. Corradi at that Institute, and that Corradi was still working with deaf and mute children in Argentina. They also sent a video message to this effect to Pope Francis on May 9, 2014. In February 2016 they were informed by the Vatican that Pope Francis had referred the matter to the Italian Bishops’ Conference and that no other action would be taken. Fr. Corradi was thus free to continue abusing children at the Provolo Institute for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Children in Argentina. In 2016, Fr. Corradi was arrested together with other perpetrators and the institute was shut down. In 2019, he was sentenced by an Argentinian court to 42 years in prison for sexually abusing children at the Argentinian institute between 2004 and 2016. The details of the abuse are horrific.[25]

Fr. Marko Rupnik

Multiple accusations of sexual and physical assault of nuns dating back three decades have been made against Fr. Marko Rupnik S.J., a well-known artist. Rupnik’s criminal acts manifested exceptionally abhorrent sacrilege and cruelty. The Jesuits conducted an internal investigation into the accusations against Rupnik, and in May 2019 they determined that the accusations against him were credible. The conclusions of the investigation were forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at that time. One of the crimes was the absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue. This crime carries the penalty of automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication. In January 2020, he was judged to have committed the crime. Rupnik was invited to preach a Lenten retreat to the priests working at the Vatican in March 2020 despite being excommunicated at the time. [See note 25a] In May 2020 his excommunication was lifted. Excommunication for this crime can only be lifted by the Apostolic See.

After the excommunication he appeared in videos released by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life. Pope Francis initially refused to lift the statute of limitations for the canonical charges against Rupnik, although it is usual to do so with serious and well-substantiated accusations. A number of Rupnik’s victims wrote directly to Pope Francis detailing the abuse they had received at his hands, but they received no reply. Pope Francis received Rupnik in a private audience in January 2022. In August 2023 Rupnik, who had been expelled by the Jesuits, was accepted as a diocesan priest in Slovenia. In September 2023 Francis had a private meeting with Maria Campatelli, a former member of Rupnik’s Loyola Community where he carried out much of his abuse, the current director of Rupnik’s Aletti Centre in Rome, and a defender of Rupnik who accused his victims of defaming him. A few days after this meeting, the Vicariate of the Diocese of Rome issued a report into the Aletti Centre that whitewashed Rupnik in the face of all the evidence, and cast doubt upon the legitimacy of his excommunication. Pope Francis lifted the statute of limitations on the accusations against Rupnik in October 2023, when Rupnik’s crimes had been given massive publicity, but no further proceedings have been instituted against him. Rupnik’s career from 2020 on can only be explained by the personal support of Pope Francis.[26]