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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Prominent advocacy groups are urging Pope Francis to take decisive action against clergy sexual abuse, including by removing the new head of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) and rescinding his recent elevation to the College of Cardinals.
On Friday, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA) called for the pontiff to take these actions against Abp. Víctor Manuel Fernández, who was among 20 other men made cardinals by Francis on Saturday.
In addition to his apparent confusion on doctrinal matters such as blessing same-sex couples, Fernández — a noted ally of Pope Francis — came under scrutiny as concerns about his past handling of abuse allegations surfaced.
The South American prelate confessed to mishandling a 2019 case involving a priest accused of sexually abusing children and expressed on social media his lack of preparation and training for addressing clerical abuse issues.
"Among the responsibilities of the DDF is the handling of sexual abuse accusations brought against clergy," states the SNAP press release. "In fact, this responsibility constitutes 80% of its work."
"Yet earlier this year, Archbishop Fernández admitted that he made 'mistakes' in handling a 2019 case of a priest accused of sexually abusing children," the press release continues. "On this basis, we too urgently call for Pope Francis to replace the Archbishop on the DDF, and to reconsider his selection as Cardinal."
Standing with SNAP and ECA, Bishop Accountability dubbed Fernández an "inappropriate fit" for the Church's top doctrinal office and signaled its broader concern for the Catholic Church's apparent stagnation in tackling clergy sexual abuse.
Fernández has sparked controversy for authoring troubling texts like his 1995 book titled Heal Me With Your Mouth: The Art of Kissing.
An unexpected encounter on the street in Rome between pro-globalism Cdl. Jean-Claude Hollerich and two abuse victims from ECA highlighted further concerns regarding Pope Francis' failure to enact a stringent zero-tolerance policy towards sexual abuse and its cover-up within the Church.
Hollerich — whom the ECA has noted may be a top contender for the papacy — has claimed Pope Francis cannot enact zero tolerance because "the Curia" tells him "what to do."
An abuse victim presented Hollerich a draft of zero-tolerance legislation, and the cardinal committed to delivering it to Pope Francis for serious consideration.
This encounter, recorded on a Zoom call, was shared at an ECA press conference on Monday.
ECA has since demanded that Hollerich introduce the zero-tolerance legislation at the upcoming Synod on Synodality and has insisted on a transparent discussion during the proceedings regarding sexual abuse. Hollerich is a lead organizer of the event as its realtor general.
Under his leadership, however, the synod is focused on changes that go against traditional Church teaching, touching on issues like contraception, reception of the sacraments for the divorced and remarried, clerical celibacy, homosexuality and female ordination. Five cardinals have sent Pope Francis dubia — questions that, like ECA, seek a formal response.
"As we see it, the long and terrible history of clergy sexual abuse and its cover-up is still being written," states the SNAP press release. "By appointing Archbishop Fernández to the DDF and naming him a cardinal, Pope Francis clearly demonstrates that it is business as usual in the Catholic Church."
Despite Pope Francis' proclamations of zero tolerance towards clerical sex abuse within the Church, no binding Church law currently mandates the permanent removal from the priesthood for any act of sexual abuse or its institutional concealment.
On Sept. 29, ECA also pressed Pope Francis to address alarming abuse cases from several countries including Colombia, Italy and Canada. The ECA noted Fernández's role in Church leadership as a concern because he had allegedly concealed several sexual abuse cases during his tenure as archbishop of La Plata.
The advocacy group's call to action underscores a growing impatience among such groups and abuse victims for meaningful reform within the Catholic Church to address the long-standing issue of clergy sexual abuse.