Our Holy Father talked about more than just Theodore McCarrick at his press conference on Sunday.
1. He also answered a question about a conversation he had with a prominent abuse survivor and victims advocate. She has since written to him, asking him to clarify his answer.
2. And there’s more. During the press conference, Pope Francis spoke at length about a highly celebrated court case in Spain, the “Caso Romanones.”
A young man had written to him–Pope Francis–in 2014, accusing a group of priests of sexual abuse.
At the press conference Sunday, the Holy Father narrated the subsequent series of events from what struck me as a strange point-of-view. His account includes clear factual inaccuracies. As Pope Francis told the story, the priests had suffered a terrible calumny, which the press had exacerbated. But, in the end, the priests got vindicated in court. And the whole thing goes to show you that sometimes sex-abuse allegations against priests aren’t true.*
The pope had met the priests in private audience last month and asked for their forgiveness.
Problem is this:
Yes, the one priest who actually went to trial was found not guilty. The court originally insisted that the accuser had to pay court costs. The priests were all restored to the ministry. But then the Supreme Court of Spain annulled the imposition of court costs. And declared that the lower court had not determined that the accuser’s story was false.
The accuser is known as “Daniel.” What had happened is that the prosecutor dropped the charges at the eleventh hour of the case. Apparently because the criminal case required proving WARNING anal penetration. Which Daniel’s testimony had not established.
Also, the other priests Daniel accused had never even faced trial, because of the statute of limitations.
Earlier this month, after he learned that the pope had apologized to the priests, Daniel wrote a letter pointing out that the canonical case against these priests should not be closed. “The civil court has not reached the conclusion that sexual abuse did not occur.”
Now, I do not claim to understand the Caso Romanones completely. Daniel has a lawyer, and that lawyer may be a charlatan, for all I know. I read Spanish ok, and I have perused a lot of news articles. I think I know as much about this case as any English-language journalist–based on the internet searches I have done. But I can hardly claim to know that the priests are actually guilty.
What I can say is this: The civil court did not determine that abuses, for which the priests should be held to account, did not happen at all. Daniel appears to have given somewhat incoherent testimony. On the other hand, forensic experts had studied the witnesses at the trial, and they had concluded that Daniel is a lot more believable than the priest. For that reason, there was widespread surprise when the prosecution dropped the case at the eleventh hour.
It is a fact that the Supreme Court of Spain declared in its judgment (after the accused priests were re-instated to ministry by the Pope and Archbishop of Granada) that the lower court had not judged Daniel’s testimony to be false.
* In my limited personal experience, sex abuse allegations leveled by non-homosexual men against other men are almost always true.