VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis marks the 10th anniversary of his election Monday, far exceeding the “two or three” years he once envisioned for his papacy and showing no signs of slowing down.
Instead, with a schedule full of problems and plans and no longer in the shadow of Pope Benedict XVI, the 86-year-old Francis has backed down from talk of retirement, recently describing the papacy as a lifelong job.
The first Latin American Pope in history has already made his mark and could have an even greater impact in the years to come.
Francis had a steep learning curve about clergy sexual abuse, initially downplaying the issue in ways that left survivors wondering if he “got it.” He had his wake-up call five years into his pontificate after a troubled visit to Chile.
During the trip, he discovered a serious disconnect between what the Chilean bishops had told him about a notorious case and the reality: Hundreds or thousands of Chilean faithful had been raped and sexually abused by Catholic priests for decades.
“That was my conversion,” he told the AP. “That’s when the bomb went off, when I saw the corruption of many bishops in this.”
Francis has passed a series of measures since then aimed at holding the church hierarchy accountable, but the results have been mixed. Benedict removed some 800 priests, but Francis seems far less eager to oust abusers, reflecting resistance within the hierarchy to efforts to permanently remove predators from the priesthood.
The next frontier in the crisis has already reared its head: the sexual, spiritual, and psychological abuse of adults by clergy. Francisco is aware of the problem: a new case concerns one of his fellow Jesuits, but there seems to be no will to take firm action.
ROLE OF WOMEN
Francisco’s jokes about the “female genius” have made women cringe for a long time. Women theologians are the “strawberries on the cake”, he once said. Nuns shouldn’t be “spinsters,” he said. Europe should not be a barren and infertile “grandmother,” he told European Union lawmakers, a comment that prompted an angry phone call from then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
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But it’s also true that Francis has done more to promote women in the church than any pope before him, including appointing several women to high-profile Vatican posts.
That’s not saying much given that only one in four employees of the Holy See is a woman, no woman heads a department or department, and Francis has defended church doctrine that prohibits women from serving as priests.
Francis’ insistence that long-marginalized LGBTQ Catholics be able to find a welcome home in the church can be summed up in two pronouncements that have ended his papacy to date: “Who am I to judge?” and “Being homosexual is not a crime.”
Among those landmark statements, Francis made outreach to LGBTQ people a hallmark of his papacy more than any pope before him.
Serves members of a transgender community in Rome. She has counseled gay couples seeking to raise their children as Catholics. During a visit to the US in 2015, she went public with a private meeting with a gay alumnus and the man’s partner to counter the conservative narrative that she had hosted an anti-same-sex marriage activist.
“The Pope reminds the church that how people treat each other in the social world is of far greater moral importance than what people can do in the privacy of a bedroom,” said Francis DeBernardo of New York Ministry. Ways, who advocates for greater acceptance of LGBTQ Catholics.