Pope's comments on child sex abuse anger victims

Pope Francis prays in Rome on Dec. 8, 2013.

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Mariam al-Khawli, a mother of four, waited with hundreds of others outside the UN compound in Tripoli, Lebanon. She took out a plastic bottle she had filled with gasoline — and poured it over the top of her head. She ignited the fuel and screamed. She crumpled to the ground.

That was March 2014. Mariam was a Syrian refugee. And she was just one of hundreds of others waiting desperately to receive aid from the UN refugee agency. But the agency had only received a fraction of the money donor countries had pledged. And so it didn’t have the aid that Mariam needed for her family. More than a year later, the situation has not improved.

There are four million Syrians — people, like Mariam. All of them were forced from their homes by a ferocious war. They now live in strange places, searching for new livelihoods, new lives. The tiniest fraction have made it to Europe. The European Union has agreed, barely, to resettle within their member countries a fraction of those.

Every last one of them has a story.

Today GlobalPost launches the first piece in its new series, “Longreads on Conflict.” The project aims to reveal the full extent of the humanitarian toll from major conflicts, and investigate the responsibility borne by the world's leaders. In this yearlong effort, GlobalPost gives the time and space needed for correspondents to tell the whole story of these conflicts in text, video, photographs and graphics.

The first story, by Paul Wood, details the lives of Syrians who have fled to Lebanon to Turkey to Germany. One of them is Mariam.  


The hero’s welcome continues for Pope Francis in his first-ever visit to the United States. The Pope has enjoyed a pretty positive response from many corners of the country, Catholic or not. He’s been especially lauded for his comments Wednesday on climate change.

That’s all good and fine. But let’s talk about the continuing saga of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church. Pope Francis had some things to say about that on Wednesday too: “I realize how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you and I have supported your generous commitment to bring healing to victims,” he said. He was talking to his clergy, whom he went on to describe as courageous.

Victims of child sex abuse and their advocates were shocked. They took exception to the characterization of the clergy’s commitment as “generous,” among other things. In reality, they say, for decades the clergy has treated victims as adversaries.

What’s more, as a GlobalPost investigation by Senior Correspondent Will Carless recently revealed, accused perpetrators of child sex abuse within the Catholic Church in the United States have been allowed to continue serving the Church in South America. The Vatican, and that includes the Pope, has yet to respond to these revelations.

The Vatican, in fact, for all these decades has remained unscathed by the continuing tragedy of child sex abuse. To date, not a single Holy See official has been successfully sued or jailed for their roles in concealing the sexual abuse of children by the Catholic Church’s priests — largely thanks to esoteric legal arguments and diplomatic immunity.

Carless takes an in-depth look today at the potential strategies for pursuing legal action against the Vatican. It’s here. And it’s a must read.


The best radio stations in North Korea? The illegal ones. All of them. The North Korean government, which remains the world leader in secrecy and authoritarian control, is slowly losing some of its grip on the information available to its citizens.

Today, more and more people living in North Korea possess an informed understanding of the world and the pariah status of their homeland due to the infiltration of foreign radio stations. The US-backed Radio Free Asia is one of them. There are also a couple South Korean stations that are managing to broadcast in the North. And soon, the BBC World Service will join them.

That’s not good for the guys in charge. But it is good for the millions of North Koreans who have been forced by their government into abject poverty.