Pope Francis is perhaps most controversial for his theological positions or his populist progressive sentiments, but what is often overlooked in evaluations of this lightning rod of a papacy is his absolutely abysmal record on clerical sex abuse. He has talked tough at times about clerical abuse. He’s even published guidelines on how it should be handled. But I’ve been asking where the pope really stands on clerical sex abuse since 2015 — and with good reason.
When I read the story today about the forced resignation Bishop Michael Hoeppner of Crookston, Minnesota over sex-abuse coverup, I was immediately struck by the contrast between his case and others that are similar, and even more well known.
According to The Pillar, Hoeppner, age 71, has resigned, at the direct request of Pope Francis, 18 months after an investigation began into allegations that he coerced a sex abuse victim into recanting his claim. The investigation turned up at least one other major failure — the decision to leave a priest in ministry who admitted to inappropriately touching a 5 year old child when he was 14, and having had sexual fantasies about minors during his ministry. (The priest in question was himself sexually abused as a child.)