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Don’t blame the Devil for church sex abuse scandal, Pope Francis

Pope Francis delivers his message on the occasion

Pope Francis delivers his message on the occasion of his weekly general audience in St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican on Oct. 10, 2018. Credit: AP / Gregorio Borgia

The Devil made them do it?

Try again, Pope Francis.

The Catholic Church is embroiled in a sex abuse scandal that is shaking the church to its very foundations.

Clergy around the world have been accused of molesting minors. The abuse went on for decades. Church leaders covered it up. Problem priests were transferred to other parishes, only to continue their predatory ways. Other priests were quietly removed from the ministry and prohibited from having any contact with minors.

Here’s what didn’t happen: Priests that the church knew were sexual predators weren’t brought to the attention of the police. They were not arrested. They did not serve jail time, as should happen with any child molester.

The scandal has hit home on Staten Island recently, with a church panel substantiating abuse claims against Monsignor Francis Boyle, former pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in West Brighton.

A ticking time bomb for a while now, the whole mess has exploded on Pope Francis’ watch. The pope himself has been accused to covering for former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who resigned his office in the face of abuse accusations.

The Vatican has made certain acknowledgements about abuses that took place. There have been investigations, including one that is ongoing in the New York Archdiocese. Some victims are receiving compensation.

It’s a start.

But the church has a long way to go before things are made right. Lawsuits and other investigatory documents have not been made public, including in the case of Boyle. Questions about the true scope of the abuses, as well as the exact accusations against particular priests in particular parishes, continue to go unanswered. True transparency is lacking.

The church is in effect saying, “We know there’s a problem. We’re taking care of it. Trust us.”

Sorry. That’s too big a leap of faith given the heinous nature of the accusations.

And Pope Francis seems too intent on deflecting blame.

The pope on Sunday said that the Devil was trying to attack and divide the church. He said the church needed to be “saved from the attacks of the malign one, the great accuser and at the same time be made ever more aware of its guilt, its mistakes, and abuses committed in the present and the past.”

Let’s not muddy the waters, Your Holiness. Satan isn’t the problem. Unless by that you mean the evil that could manifest itself in any one of us. The evil that turns diabolical thoughts into immoral and illegal actions.

You can call that “the Devil” if you want, but don’t make it sound like these abusive clergy members were other-directed somehow and were not responsible for their own actions.

These are adult men we’re talking about. These priests knew that child molestation was wrong. Not just a grave sin. Not just a breaking of their vows. But a crime. They were not in thrall to a supernatural being. And, if they were, that’s something that can be settled in the afterlife.

But justice has to be meted out in this world first. Don’t bring Beelzebub into it. The church is actually under attack from within. Its own clergy and elders have undermined faith in the institution. Faith that must be gained back if the church is to endure.

Let’s face: Predator priests got off easy for decades. They were never called to truly account for their crimes. Everything was swept under the rug. A mighty big rug, by the look of it. But as Scripture tells us, everything is brought into the light eventually.

The pope has also called upon believers to say a rosary every day for the month of October, and to supplement it with a prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, the one who cast Satan into the pit in the first place.

It’s a good idea. But the cleansing can’t stop there.