The Pope’s recent visit to the United States in a bid to strengthen the power of the Catholic Church in modern times has provoked a variety of responses. Criticisms of Catholic priests’ sexual assault on members of congregation have led people to insist the Catholic church does more to stop these attacks. According to Newsweek, the Pope met with the head of the Boston diocese after leading the masses in prayer; after which some of the assembled were moved to tears. The real purpose of the visit was not lost on them however, as many were looking to the Pope to do something about the attacks on them. His visit has been seen by several as being more ceremonial than anything else and they are waiting for action to be taken on the large number of sexual assault cases reported in the Catholic faith in America. They say the Pope has not yet announced his plans for changing this situation and are looking forward to hearing from him to see what reforms he will bring in.
So far the head of the Catholic faith has addressed the United Nations, berating nations within it for acting unilaterally and thereby contravening the principles upon which it was built. Next, the Pope intends to visit Ground Zero, the site of the September 11 attacks on New York City, and lead mass in Yankee Stadium. It is no wonder that members of the clergy see his visit more as a media circus than anything else and are pushing him to act rather than speak and talk of what will be done.
He did however, meet with several victims of sexual abuse and talked openly of their plight; a move seen by those victims as welcome and a positive step towards addressing the issue. A number of Catholic schools within the US have shut down as a result of these abuses, and the number of Catholics in America joining the priesthood has dwindled from 58,000 in 1965 to just under 41,500 last year (Reuters) while the number of Catholics has increased from 45.6 million to 64.4 million in the same period. While the Pope has stated that it is “more important to have good priests than to have many priests” (Reuters), some are questioning whether the Pope is truly there to address the issue of sexual assault on minors or whether he is touring the United States in a bid to increase the popularity of the Catholic church. In any case, some concrete plans for reform will need to be seen before Catholics are persuaded to return to church and resume their roles within it.