Francis met today with members of Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. He acknowledged that the Church was late in dealing with these crimes, but insisted that her policy now was “zero tolerance”. More importantly, “we can listen with interest to the voices of the victims and the survivors, as we have much to learn from them and their personal stories of courage and perseverance.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis met today with members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors gathered for their Plenary Assembly.
In his address, he called for “zero tolerance” towards members of the clergy who commit sexual abuse. Calling them “sick people,” he said they can ask for papal pardon, but that he would never grant it.
The pontiff acknowledged that the Church was late in dealing with these crimes. “When consciousness arrives late, the means to resolve the problems also arrive late.” But “Thanks to God, the Lord sent prophetic men and women to the Church” who can “to face the problem head-on.”
At the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, “there are many cases that are not going forward”. In view of this, more people are brought on board to study the case files. Proof of “abuse of minors is sufficient not receive an appeal”.
This is not due, the pope explained, to any aversion but simply because the person who commits such crimes is sick. If he repents and is forgiven, “after two years he relapses”. Hence, “anyone convicted of sexual abuse on minors can turn to the pope for a pardon,” but “I have never signed one of these [pardons] and will never sign one.”
In his prepared remarks, which he did not read but made available, the pope writes that, among other things, he had “had the privilege of listening to the stories that victims and survivors of abuses.” Sexual abuse “is a horrible sin, completely opposed to and in contradiction to what Christ and the Church teach us.” In view of this, the “Church, at all levels, will respond with the application of the firmest measures to all those who have betrayed their call and abused the children of God.”
At the same time though, “It is also encouraging to know that many Bishops’ Conferences and Conferences of Major Superiors have sought your advice,” the pontiff noted. “Your collaboration in sharing best practices is truly valuable, especially for those Churches that have fewer resources for this crucial work of protection.”
At the end of his address, Francis said that he was “fully confident that the Commission will continue to be a place where we can listen with interest to the voices of the victims and the survivors, as we have much to learn from them and their personal stories of courage and perseverance.”
In his address, Card Sean O’Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said that “The protection of minors is clearly one of the top priorities of the Church”.
Indeed, “The Church’s care for victims/survivors of abuse and their families is a primary consideration in this mission. By listening attentively and sharing experiences with them, our Commission has benefitted greatly from all that survivors have offered to us.”