Pope Francis waves as he attends the Festival of Families at Croke Park during his visit to Dublin, Ireland, on Saturday. Photo: REUTERS
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Pope compares church sexual abuse, corruption to excrement, victims say

24 Comments
By Philip Pullella and Padraic Halpin

Pope Francis vowed on Saturday to end the sexual exploitation of children by clergy during a highly-charged visit to once deeply Catholic Ireland and, according to victims, said the corruption and cover up of abuse amounted to human excrement.

On the first papal visit to the country in almost four decades, Francis used a speech at a state event that was also attended by some abuse survivors to acknowledge that it was to the church's shame it had not addressed these "repugnant crimes" and said he sought a greater commitment to eliminating this"scourge".

He later met privately for 90 minutes at the Vatican embassy with eight victims of clerical, religious and institutional abuse.

In a statement, the representatives from the Survivors of Mother and Baby Homes group said Francis condemned corruption and cover up within the Church as "caca", an Italian and Spanish word for human excrement.

The statement said that after the pope used the word, his translator explained that it meant "literally filth as one sees in a toilet."

A Vatican spokesman had no comment on the details of what was said in the meeting. A Vatican official said he would not be surprised that the pope had used the word.

"Very powerful meeting. He listened with a genuine interest," said Clodagh Malone, who was born in one of the state-backed homes for unwed mothers and adopted at 10-weeks-old.

The pope earlier spoke publicly about abuse, saying he could not "fail to acknowledge the grave scandal caused in Ireland by the abuse of young people by members of the church charged with responsibility for their protection and education."

Years of sexual abuse scandals have shattered the credibility of the church as a moral leader in Ireland and driven many from the church. In the past three years, Irish voters have approved abortion and gay marriage in referendums, defying its wishes.

"The failure of ecclesiastical authorities - bishops, religious superiors, priests and others - adequately to address these repugnant crimes has rightly given rise to outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community."

In unprepared remarks, Francis added a reference to a letter he addressed last Monday to all the world's Catholics on the abuse crisis, saying he wanted it to signal "a greater commitment to eliminating this scourge in the church, at any cost".

More than three-quarters of Ireland's population flocked to see Pope John Paul II in 1979 when divorce and contraception were illegal. Francis was greeted by far smaller numbers.

Large images of abuse victims and the hashtag #Stand4Truth - promoting a gathering of survivors and supporters elsewhere in Dublin when the pope says mass on Sunday - were projected onto some of the capital's most recognised buildings on Friday night.

They included Dublin's Pro Cathedral, where on Saturday Francis prayed before a candle commemorating abuse victims that was first lit in 2011.

However, flag-waving supporters still gathered five or six deep along many parts of Francis's route by popemobile, although in other parts he was greeted by a more sparse turnout.

"I think it's absolutely marvellous. There are one or two objectors, but I think they should keep their objections to themselves and get into the spirit of the thing," said Christina O'Riordan, a 76-year-old retired teacher.

Despite changes in Irish society, Francis asked that Ireland would not forget "the powerful strains of the Christian message" that have sustained it in the past, and can continue to do so in the future.

About a quarter of the 2.7 million who greeted John Paul II were expected to turn out for Francis.

"The crowd is smaller than I thought. It's a good crowd, but wouldn't be near what you'd get for (Saint) Patrick's Day," said Christy Moore, 59, referring to Ireland's national holiday as he sold papal flags wearing an 'I love Pope Francis' hat .

"It was much much bigger (in 1979). There's not that much interest in it now."

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who last year became Ireland's first gay leader, told Francis that the wounds of clerical child abuse that stained the Irish state were still open and there was much to be done to bring about justice and healing for victims.

A damning report last week into abuse in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, which followed scandals in Australia and Chile, was all too tragically familiar in Ireland, Varadkar said, adding that the time had come for a very different Ireland to build a new relationship with the Church.

"Holy Father, I ask that you use your office and influence to ensure this is done here in Ireland and across the world," Varadkar said. "We must now ensure that from words flow actions."

In other protests, gay rights activists hung rainbow umbrellas from a nearby bridge while a silent vigil will be held on Sunday at the site of a former "Mother and Baby Home" where an unmarked grave with the remains of hundreds of babies was found in 2014.

The pope, who traveled through Dublin in a blue Skoda in keeping with his shunning of limousines and bulletproof cars, said church leaders needed to remedy past mistakes and adopt stringent norms to ensure they do not happen again.

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24 Comments
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Caca is right and hearing it coming from the mouth of the Pope shows just how ticked off he is at his followers.

I like this Pope for his straight talk, now keep on going and flush that caca down the drain!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Language is important. Please stop referring to scandals and start referring to what they are: Crimes. Crimes that have been committed by criminals, and crimes that were covered up with the assistance of other criminals. This topic is not the ecclesiastical equivalent of using the wrong fork. 

The Catholic Church has been rotten for centuries. It started when Constantine mixed church and state. Once the Church had control over government the power corrupted the faith. Let that be a lesson for those who want more religion in the United States government. Never a good idea.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Pope Francis [...] said the corruption and cover up of abuse amounted to human excrement.

Thug's life, Vatican edition.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Too little too late, and one man's harsh words cannot make up for the decades of abuse being systematically covered up by previous popes and thousands of higher-ups in the church.

There is no place for religions in government, and I am glad Ireland has learnt this, albeit in the very hardest way.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

Talk is cheap. But when will he ever do something about it?.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Actions speak louder than words. Let's see what this Pope actually does. I hope he does turn everything upside-down.

One thing, though, which I've never fully understood about the Catholic Church is why the church doesn't allow the priests (and the sisters for that matter) to marry. Denying sexual intercourse (a vow to celibacy) is too difficult for a lot of people to handle, isn't it?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

The Catholic Church has been rotten for centuries. It started when Constantine mixed church and state. Once the Church had control over government the power corrupted the faith. Let that be a lesson for those who want more religion in the United States government. Never a good idea.

Strange conclusion. The C Church was rotten, of which I agree, so yes they had embraced power over religion, and the decisions that followed. But if a majority of a congressional district is highly religious, and they elect a person who's highly religious, how can you come to the conclusion that this person will automatically choose power and forsake their beliefs? BTW, I'm not religious. I don't think any serious person wants more religion in the US government, but many see the constant decline in religious values and beliefs corresponding with the rise in deviant and violent behavior, especially in TV, movies, language and video games.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

but many see the constant decline in religious values and beliefs corresponding with the rise in deviant and violent behavior

You could argue that the safest countries in the world are the least religious. I’m not convinced lack of religion is the sole cause of this, but the idea that religion makes people behave better is a non-starter for me.

Abusing children is one of the sickest things humans can do, and it was rife among god’s representatives. Kids at my old school were abused by sexual predators in religious garb - preying on the quiet, awkward ones. Sick.

It certainly didn’t make the Christian brothers who taught me behave better.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

At least this Pope isn't pretending the problems with abuse don't exist, as so many previous Popes have done. He can't personally protect potential victims in every dark corner of the Catholic church worldwide but he can try to entrench a culture in the church that the actions of criminal priests will be punished - a process, I would have thought, that's already under way.

As an atheist, it seems to me that the Pope is a good man who's doing a good job. Let's hope that when Francis is gone, his successors won't revert to the old authoritarian ways.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I remember the visit in '79.

Ireland was in the last throes of religious hysteria and the visit of JP2 had the people and complacent media (hello, RTE) in ecstasies. There were, of course, those who were wise to the role the church played in dominating and ruining lives but they were roundly ignored. Or villified.

How different it is today. Francis may well be filling the Croker with remnants of the faithful but Ireland lost faith in his organisation for good back in the 90s as clerical abuse came to light. The Tuam babies and Magdelene Laundries also proved to be nails in the coffin.

How strange to see Leo Varadakar and Francis together. A sign of a very modern country (despite both having historically right wing organisations behind them).

800 years of oppression followed by decades of abuse by the church. Women locked up for getting pregnant, babies buried in unmarked graves, sinners denounced on Sunday whilst Father X fathers children or sexually abuses them.

Yes, Francis is right to calll it caca. I wouldn't be as reserved, myself.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

As an atheist, it seems to me that the Pope is a good man

Maybe.

I keep hearing this but I’m less enthusiastic than some. He certainly talks a good game but what has he actually done?

I tend to be a little sceptical about expressions like a “greater commitment” to something.

I like things more concrete myself. It isn’t as if this problem just came to light yesterday and they haven’t thought about what can be done.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

For those of you commenting that he still hasn't really done anything.

What can he do? Go around to different offenders and smite them with his pope magic?

The fact that he is standing on the forefront of the church and acknowledging it has and is happening, as well as condemning it, is already something pretty big for the church in the first place.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I’m not convinced lack of religion is the sole cause of this, but the idea that religion makes people behave better is a non-starter for me.

I agree with you. I was speaking of US history and how the Christian religion was a large influence on the culture which started changing around the 50's. The abolition movement, temperance and women's rights to name a few.

It certainly didn’t make the Christian brothers who taught me behave better.

Sounds terrible. But I think we're on different pages. I'm speaking of large cultural changes. We know any power can corrupt.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

It's come decades too late. He says he understands and feels terrible about it.

It's not about his feelings, though. It's about the thousands and thousands of kids (and not just in Ireland) who were raped and abused, the women who were locked up, the babies who were buried without names, the illegal adoptions.

Their voices (dead or alive) matter much more than the corrupt institution and its representatives.

Previous Popes were aware of child abuse in Ireland and they did nothing.

Sean McDermott Street is an edgy place at the best of times, I admire the reserve of the crowd for not lobbing a brick at the Popemobile.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

In a statement, the representatives from the Survivors of Mother and Baby Homes group said Francis condemned corruption and cover up within the Church as "caca", an Italian and Spanish word for human excrement. The statement said that after the pope used the word, his translator explained that it meant "literally filth as one sees in a toilet."

What a strange thing to say (and what a silly translation!). Caca's a very childish word (poo or poop) & imo totally inappropriate for such a serious issue.

'These ppl are/were the scum of the earth" would have been more accurate.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Christianity the most populated religion in the world and most dominant Catholics and their gran palace Vatican, so wide and huge community in the world and the Pope who represent the top rank, that's enough to say all his presence is much more ceremonial, to be a divine posture to clear up corruptions and cover up of abuses by bishops. that looks very light and insignificant statement, putting much the image of the " religious power" ahead. It won't change that much, to see the "pure image" overcome the "filthy world" of the church. And the mentality of all followers are still the same. That's the most shameful thing...

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

You could argue that the safest countries in the world are the least religious. I’m not convinced lack of religion is the sole cause of this, but the idea that religion makes people behave better is a non-starter for me.

Abusing children is one of the sickest things humans can do, and it was rife among god’s representatives. Kids at my old school were abused by sexual predators in religious garb - preying on the quiet, awkward ones. Sick.

It certainly didn’t make the Christian brothers who taught me behave better.

Religious belief is a negative influence on children’s altruism:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/06/religious-children-less-altruistic-secular-kids-study

I am very non-religious (though baptized Catholic), and I treat people nicely and with dignity, because it's the right thing to do, not because of some fear of God. Fear only motivates enough to do the bare minimum, not to excel. I was taught from a young age that treating people well is its own reward, and life has only backed that up with me.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I personally like this pope more than the last one, and think he truly is a good person.

That said, the church is an outdated institution. If there really is a God, people should talk to it themselves. The church sold the people on the lie that only priests could communicate directly with god, so as to control the people, by injecting the church as the path to salvation and higher power. In this day and age, where every individual has more access to knowledge than at any time in history (exponentially more knowledge than we had even 20 years ago), people should be able to think for themselves and see the farce of the church for what it is. It's because people still allow the church to control them, that these rapists priests have been able to operate.

Dump the church. Keep your faith if you have it, but talk to god yourself. You don't need them.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The Catholic church still has more than a billion adherents worldwide, and it's not going to go away or collapse under the weight of all the terrible things that have been exposed about it over recent decades. So if you want something done about the abuse problem that's plagued it for who knows how long then someone in authority has to stand up and get the process going. We've had a massive exposure of clerical abuses here in Australia, and one of the recurring things the victims have said they want to hear from the church hierarchy is exactly what Pope Francis said here.

Of course he has to follow up his sentiments with action. This church, like all closed societies, needs a thorough purging. But Is someone like Pope Francis, the man in the best position to change things, who expresses his understanding and compassion for the victims, supposed to keep quiet now because "it's "decades too late"? That would just be prolonging the culture of silence which is part of what led to these problems in the first place.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"I think it's absolutely marvellous. There are one or two objectors, but I think they should keep their objections to themselves and get into the spirit of the thing," said Christina O'Riordan, a 76-year-old retired teacher.

Yes, hush now ye victims of rape and abuse and stop spoiling it all. Wave to the nice man and everything will be just grand.

That attitude now, is rare with most having accepted just how badly they were lied to.

When the horrific stories were coming out about just what had been done to generations of Irish kids, a group of students were sent out to do some vox pops on the streets of Dublin. Some of the responses were extraordinary - "ah, it's just troublemakers" and "if you ignore it, it will go away".

Well, Ireland doesn't ignore it anymore. The age of deValera's comely maidens was a lie and the contempt the church held for children was an unspeakable crime. The Pope must see realise this now - he had no choice but to address the issue. The survivors will not be silenced.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

What can he do? Go around to different offenders and smite them with his pope magic?

Nobody is expecting a miracle cure, although unlike most people, the Catholic church does accept that can happen.

One good start would be to say that the Vatican will no longer shield pedophiles in their country who escaped from justice in other countries, and that behaviour was a disgrace.

A small but concrete step.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"caca", an Italian and Spanish word for human excrement.

I'm guessing all Romance-language speakers know that word. I certainly recognize it from French and it's related to the English word cack.

But yeah, the pope was right in saying that. Now how about some action instead of just words?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The problem is the "church" keeps trying to cover up criminal acts of these evil people that abuse their religious "standing" instead of, "Ok, let's turn them over to the justice system and laws of the country" and go from there.

Even the bible says to turn over those who break the law of the land when it comes to criminal acts such as these.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What angers me is how certain extreme Catholic opinions are criticising people for wanting the subject of the institutional sexual abuse to be discussed and dealt with properly. I actually read the comment, Why are they talking about this? Most priests didn't abuse anyone.

As thought they expect a bloody round of applause for not being rapists, after KNOWING that the church was protecting these men, including the Australian George Pell.

Makes me SO angry.

Here's Tim Minchin on the subject of the Pope speaking out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pB958pxquj0

and about George Pell trying to escape questioning:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtHOmforqxk

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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