- Pope Francis addressed priests guilty of sexual abuse in a speech delivered Friday, saying the Church would not protect them and would fully pursue all credible cases.
- In his annual Christmas speech, Francis thanked the media for uncovering allegations and warned those guilty of perpetrating abuse to “prepare for divine justice.”
- Francis’s comments come after several bombshell reports this year that tie American dioceses and the Vatican itself to protecting priests who have credible allegations of abuse against them.
Pope Francis, in an annual speech delivered Friday, issued the harshest condemnation yet to priests guilty of sexual abuse, saying the Church would not protect them and they should turn themselves in.
Speaking to the Roman Curia, the leadership corps of the Vatican, Francis told abusers that the Catholic Church would no longer protect them and they should “prepare for divine justice.”
“The Church asks that people not be silent … since the greater scandal in this matter is that of cloaking the truth,” he said. “To those who abuse minors I would say this – convert and hand yourself over to human justice and prepare for divine justice.”
He also admitted that the Church previously “treated many cases without the seriousness and promptness that was due. That must never happen again.”
After years of reports that found the Church was not only aware of but took an active role in silencing allegations, Francis issued a stern promise that the Church would act on allegations.
“Let it be clear that before these abominations the Church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes,” he said. “The Church will never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case.”
The past few months have seen Church leadership struggle with major scandals including the resignation of longtime leader ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report about 300 “predator priests” who were said to have targeted nearly 1,000 children.
Chilling 1,356-page grand jury report documents allegations about how the Catholic Church followed ‘a playbook for concealing the truth’ that 300 ‘predator priests’ sexually abused at least 1,000 children
A report made public by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan two days before the Pope’s speech contained accusations against 690 priests, 185 of which Catholic officials identified as having credible allegations against them.
The Pope thanked members of the media for such reports that “were honest and objective and sought to unmask these predators and to make their victims’ voices heard.”
There was a meeting of US bishops in November that was expected to produce new policies to prevent and address abuse, but an order from the Vatican told them to not take any action and to wait for a global meeting slated for February.
The Pope called the meeting a chance to set the Church back on track to pursue “unstintingly a path of purification.”
“She will question, with the help of experts, how best to protect children, to avoid these tragedies, to bring healing and restoration to the victims, and to improve the training imparted in seminaries,” he said.
The Pope added: “An effort will be made to make past mistakes opportunities for eliminating this scourge, not only from the body of the Church but also from that of society.”
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