Pope Francis May Be 'Backsliding' On Paedophile Crackdown

Pope Francis may be 'backsliding' in his crackdown on paedophile priests, a senior Australian Catholic official is warning.

Francis Sullivan, head of the Catholic Church's Justice and Healing Council, said a determined Vatican establishment was blocking Francis' attempts at reform.

Pope Francis faces a 'self-preservation' attitude among the Vatican establishment, Sullivan warned.Reuters

'Bureaucrats and courtiers [were] doing all they can to either undermine the Pope or driving an agenda' of protecting the institution, he said according to Australian Associated Press (AAP).

Sullivan, who has led the Australian church's response to the four-year child sex abuse royal commission, said it could end up as a 'marginalised rump' unless there is a change to the institutional culture of self-protection.

In 2014 the Pope ordered a 'zero-tolerance' policy to clergy who had abused children.

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But Sullivan said the resignation of Marie Collins from the Vatican's child protection commission has evidence of a cluture of self-preservation. Collins accused the Church of a 'shameful lack of cooperation' over the issue.

Sullivan said: 'You have to seriously wonder whether this isn't the Pope backsliding on what has been a strong and determined crackdown on offending priests and the circumstances that allowed abuse to take place.'

Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Abuse claimed seven per cent of Catholic priests were accused of crimes concerning children between 1950 and 2010.

Most were never investigated and responding in February Sullivan said they were 'shocking' and 'indefensible'.

He said in Sydney on Friday night: 'Together these two developments paint a picture of the Vatican establishment, its bureaucrats and courtiers, doing all they can to either undermine the Pope or driving an agenda that is about maintaining the status quo and protecting the institution.'

He added: 'If the church in Australia doesn't see continuous, concerted change from our leaders driven and backed by an active and demanding Catholic community, then our church as a religion will become a marginalised rump, stripped of credibility and relevance, left to preach to an ever ageing congregation with eyes on an ever dimming hereafter.'

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