Switalskis Partner, David Greenwood speaks out as Pope Francis plans to meet victims of sexual abuse by the clergy.
Pope Francis’s plans to meet with six victims of sexual abuse by the clergy has led many, including child abuse Solicitor David Greenwood, to question whether the olive branch the Pontiff has extended to victims is sufficient. David Greenwood, who is also Chair of the Stop Church Child Abuse campaign said, “I cannot understand why any survivor of clergy sex abuse would want to meet the Pope. My view is that the Pope should be visiting them in their own homes and begging their forgiveness”.
The six victims – from England, Ireland and Germany – will attend a special mass on Monday, before meeting the Pope. However, critics of the Pope’s ‘spotty’ record on abuse cases in his native Argentina have expressed anger that no Argentinian victims have been invited. Others have dismissed the Pope’s recent reconciliatory gestures towards victims of abuse by members of the Catholic clergy as ‘too little, too late’.
As a lawyer who has worked with victims of abuse by the clergy for many years, and as a prominent campaigner on their behalf, David Greenwood has played a key role in changing the law so that Church organisations are now responsible for the actions of their agents. He dismissed Pope Francis’s meeting with victims as a “stunt”.
In an age where image is everything, the world’s media will undoubtedly play a part in whether this meeting between abuse victims and Pontiff will improve the public image of the Catholic church. However, it is not only only its responses to survivors who come forward as adults that the Catholic church should be judged on.
Pope Francis has promised a zero tolerance approach to abuse within the Catholic church, but whether the church’s record on child protection will improve in any measurable way remains to be seen. David Greenwood attended a UN hearing in January the purpose of which was to interrogate the Catholic church on its child protection record – in particular its failures as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to provide the UN with data on its child protection measures.
David Greenwood said: “Successive Popes have made and promoted rules for bishops and priests which have shielded clergy from investigation by the police throughout the world. The church’s lamentable behaviour has been criticised by survivors, lawyers and now two United Nations committees yet Pope Francis and other senior clerics continue to defend the Church.”
“The Pope now has an opportunity to put his organisation’s house in order by acknowledging the UN’s criticisms and implementing their recommendations but sadly I very much doubt he or his officials are serious about promoting child protection.”
If you have suffered abuse as a child and would like to talk to David Greenwood and our child abuse law team, in confidence, call our helpline on 0800 138 4700.