On the day that Pope Francis begs child abuse survivors for forgiveness for the “evil” acts of some Catholic priests, Kathleen Conti has some similar questions for the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
On Friday (April 11, 2014) Pope Francis is reported as saying on Vatican Radio:
“I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests, quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests, to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children.
“The Church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children.”
The BBC said “It is being described as his strongest statement on the issue so far.”
Last year a Commission was set up consisting of four women and four men to act as a group of experts from eight countries to look at “taking criminal action against offenders, educating people about the exploitation of children, developing best practices to better screen priests.”
Similar child abuse scandals have torn through Jehovah’s Witnesses. But there has been public silence from the Governing Body and so far no apology.
Today Kathleen Conti, drawing attention to the Pope’s statement asking for forgiveness, said:
“Here is a bit of remarkable history in the making worth celebrating for victims of Catholic Priest child abuse.
“Now I await the day that the Jehovah’s Witness child abuse victims will hear an apology from the Governing Body at the Watchtower corporate offices in New York for the decades of pain and suffering they have endured. Instead of using their legal department to fight against the child abuse victims, why won’t the Governing Body not form a group of their own which includes outside experts in child abuse to help STOP child abuse in Jehovah’s Witness congregations worldwide like Pope Francis has done for the Catholics.
“Do away with the ‘two witness rule’ and stop encouraging Jehovah’s Witness families and congregation members to shun and ostracize abuse victims when they seek justice against the criminal act of child abuse they suffered at the hands of another Jehovah’s Witness.”
SNAP also released a statement about Pope Francis’ apology stating:
“We agree with Pope Francis that Catholic officials understand, to some extent, the damage that has been done. Sadly, that understanding has lead to little real change.
“And the damage is still being done. It’s disingenuous to pretend, by using the past tense, that kids are not being sexually violated and predators are not being transferred and cover ups are not being perpetuated right now.
“The Pope also asked for forgiveness today. We believe it is dreadfully duplicitous for the Pope to ask forgiveness from hundreds of thousands of suffering victims and millions of betrayed Catholics while doing virtually nothing to spare hundreds of at-risk kids from heinous sexual violence right now.” (Full statement)
Kathleen Conti’s daughter, Candace Conti, won a legal battle against the Watchtower Society in June 2012 (currently on appeal). Kathleen now works with SNAP (Survivors Network for those abused by Priests) to draw attention to childhood sex abuse at the hands of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Details of the many child abuse cases including the Conti case can be found on JWsurvey Link
BBC – Pope Francis asks forgiveness for child abuse by clergy Link
NBC – News Pope Francis begs forgiveness for “evil” sex abuse priests Link