Pope Francis’s tour to the U.S. a week ago was a resounding success. He was received by rapturous crowds; he wooed Congress and schoolchildren alike; and he captivated millions in his humble and joyful embrace of all.
One slight misstep in Pope Francis’s U.S. visit was the order in which he consulted various groups affected by sexual abuse in the church. In St. Patrick’s in D.C., in a statement made prior to his meeting with survivors, he commended bishops for their “courage” in weathering the “painful” years of the scandals. He may be right that the entirety of the clergy paid for the sins of a few, but the optics of turning to bishops first bothered some media commentators.
On the plane ride back to Rome, Francis was asked to qualify his words and actions. When asked about a woman who cannot forgive her daughter’s attacker he said, “I understand that woman.” “And God who is even better than me understands her. And I’m sure that that woman has been received by God… I don’t judge someone who can’t forgive.” These remarks clarify the broad and tougher statement he made in a homily earlier in September, when he said, “If you can’t forgive, you are not a Christian.”