Friday, April 11, 2014

Francis: On Abuse, "We Have To Be Even Stronger"

Meeting this morning with the Paris-based International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE), the Pope set aside his prepared text to make the following comment:
I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests, quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests, to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children. The Church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children.
According to Vatican Radio, the off-script was one of several spontaneous additions to what had been a brief, fairly perfunctory draft. Despite BICE's French base, Francis unusually departed from his preference for Italian to give the talk in his native Spanish.

The Pope's most direct statement yet on the clergy sex-abuse scandals which have roiled broad swaths of the Catholic world for nearly three decades, Francis' message comes three weeks after his appointment of the first eight members of a new Pontifical Commission intended to aid the church's efforts for the protection of children. Led by Cardinal Seán O'Malley OFM Cap. of Boston, the group – proposed by the "Gang of Eight" to Francis and given the go-ahead at their December meeting – includes three women, among them the prominent Irish survivor Marie Collins.

Unlike prior Vatican bodies chartered to tackle the issue, the new organ answers directly to the Pope. While the members were expected to begin contact by phone or email, the timetable of the commission's initial meeting in Rome has yet to emerge.

Since the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was granted oversight of the church's "purification" of credibly accused clergy in 2001, the office has processed the removal of over 3,000 priests from ministry, whether through dismissal from the clerical state or a sentence to a restricted life of prayer and penance.