| 21.08,18. 03:33 AM |
Pope Francis condemns church sex abuse in response to new revelations in US
Photo: Pope Francis says there will be no more cover ups and is demanding accountability. (Reuters: Tony Gentile)
Pope Francis has issued a letter to Catholics around the world condemning the "crime" of sexual abuse committed by priests — and its cover-up — and demanding accountability.
The Vatican issued the three-page letter on Monday in response to new revelations in the US of decades of misconduct by the Catholic Church.
The Pope begged forgiveness for the pain suffered by victims and said lay Catholics must be involved in any effort to root out abuse and cover-up.
He blasted the self-referential clerical culture that has been blamed for the crisis, with church leaders more concerned for their reputation than the safety of children.
"With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realising the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives," the Pope wrote.
"We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them."
The letter was distributed ahead of the Pope's trip this weekend to Ireland, a once staunchly Roman Catholic country where the church's credibility has been damaged by years of revelations that priests raped and molested children with impunity and their superiors covered up for them.
Sexual abuse committed by priests was always expected to dominate the trip, but the issue has taken on new gravity following revelations in the US that one of the Pope's trusted cardinals, the retired archbishop of Washington Theodore McCarrick, allegedly sexually abused and harassed minors as well as adult seminarians.
In addition, a grand jury report in Pennsylvania in the US last week reported that at least 1,000 children were victims of some 300 priests over the past 70 years, and that generations of bishops failed repeatedly to take measures to protect their congregation or punish the rapists.
'Never again', Pope vows
In the letter, which was issued in seven languages and addressed to the "People of God", the Pope referenced the Pennsylvania report and acknowledged no effort to beg forgiveness of the victims would be sufficient, but vowed "never again".
He said, looking to the future, "no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated."
The Pope did not, however, provide any indication of what concrete measures he was prepared to take to sanction those bishops — in the US and beyond — who covered up for sexually abusive priests.
The Pope several years ago scrapped a proposed Vatican tribunal to prosecute negligent bishops, and he has refused to act on credible reports from around the world of bishops who have failed to report abusers to police or otherwise botched handling cases, and yet remain in office.
In Chile, where a church sex abuse scandal exploded earlier this year, the Pope strong-armed the 31 active bishops to offer to resign en masse over their handling of abuse. So far he has accepted five of their resignations.
Unlike the US bishops' conference, which has referred only to "sins and omissions" in their handling of abuse, Pope Francis labelled the misconduct "crimes".
"Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others," he wrote.
"An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion."