The new Pope, Pope Francis, has been raising more than a few eyebrows since taking over for Pope Benedict when he resigned earlier this year. Francis was touted as being a much more populist-leaning Pope than before, and in many ways he’s lived up to that reputation. Most recently he chastised his flock for their “obsession” with gay sex and abortion. “The church has sometimes locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules,” he said of Catholicism’s bend to the right, politically speaking, for the last couple decades. A true test of this new pope’s presumed shift back to the center will be in whether or how he deals with the specter of pedophilia among his church’s priests, and in Pennsylvania, that reality has come into full focus.
Reverend W. Jeffrey Paulish, 56, is the priest at Scranton’s Prince of Peace parish. Scranton police found him late Thursday night in a car with a 15-year-old, pantless boy. Paulish reportedly told police initially that the teenager was in emotional distress and come to Paulish for spiritual guidance. Later he admitted that he’d arranged for the meeting via Craigslist and he insisted that he asked the boy three times if he was over the age of 18.
While the young man being of pubescent age technically puts this incident in a slightly different category than pedophilia — which pertains to pre-pubescent children — the incident still speaks to a problem that Pope Francis has yet to address. Why are there so many cases of sexually predatory behavior among his priests? The approach from the Vatican historically has been an attempt to sweep it under the rug, but if Pope Francis is truly intent on changing the way the entire world views the Catholic Church, this is one issue that cannot be patched with platitudes and homilies. Direct action is what’s needed, but will the new pope be able to take it?
Watch CNN’s coverage of the arrest of Paulish below.