Pope Francis has not yet shown the type of leadership needed to deal with child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, a bishop has told a royal commission.
The former auxiliary bishop of Sydney, Geoffrey Robinson, who has for decades called on the church to confront openly and honestly the blight of sex abuse in its ranks, said that no pope had shown the leadership required.
Pope John Paul II, who was pope for 27 years until 2005, handled abuse poorly, he said.
“He always claimed the authority, and I think with authority goes the obligation of leadership,” said Bishop Robinson who is giving evidence on his dealings with the Vatican over four decades.
He told the commission in Sydney to imagine how different things would have been if John Paul II had come to the microphone in St Peter’s Square in 1997 and told the crowd he had received reports of widespread sexual abuse of minors by priests and religious which had shocked him to the core.
He said that would have sent out a message to the whole church, but instead there was “silence” from the pope.
“A real leadership like that from the Pope would have been marvellous, and from subsequent popes, now we still don’t have that kind of leadership, not even from Francis,” he said.
Because he had raised the problem in Rome, Bishop Robinson was sent a letter detailing what John Paul II had sent to the US church.
“It was a terrible letter, it tended to minimise and ended up saying we will pray for the victims,” he said.
Bishop Robinson said if the bishops in Australia had published a letter like that they would have been torn apart.
He said the problem of child abuse did not fit with Pope John Paul’s view of the church.
“Maybe he never met it in Poland,” he said.