Pope admits church realised sex abuse problem 'a bit late'

2017-09-22 09:14
Pope Francis at the Quirinal presidential palace in Rome. (Andrew Medichini, AP)

Pope Francis at the Quirinal presidential palace in Rome. (Andrew Medichini, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Vatican City - Pope Francis on Thursday acknowledged the Catholic Church was "a bit late" in realising the damage done by priests who rape and molest children, and said that the decades-long practice of moving paedophiles around rather than sanctioning them was to blame.

Francis met on Thursday for the first time with his sex abuse advisory commission, a group of outside experts named in 2014 to advise him and the Catholic Church on best practices to keep paedophiles out of the priesthood and protect children.

In his prepared remarks, Francis promised to respond with the "firmest measures possible" against sex abusers. He said bishops and religious superiors bore "primary responsibility" for keeping their flocks safe from abusive priests and would be held accountable if they are negligent.

But Francis also spoke off-the-cuff, admitting that the church's response to the scandal was slow. Indeed, the Vatican for decades turned a blind eye to the problem and local bishops, rather than defrocking abusers, instead moved them from parish to parish, allowing them to abuse anew.

Part of the problem was that under the papacy of St John Paul II, the Vatican was reluctant to defrock young priests, even if they were abusers.

"The consciousness of the church arrived a bit late, and when the consciousness arrives late, the means to resolve the problem arrive late," Francis said. "Perhaps the old practice of moving people around, and not confronting the problem, kept consciences asleep."

'Sickness'

Francis also addressed the way the Vatican was handling appeals of canonical sentences, saying he wanted to add more diocesan bishops to an appeals commission that is currently dominated by canon lawyers. He said lawyers "tend to want to lower sentences" and that he wanted the influence of diocesan bishops with experience of the problem in the field to balance it out.

"I decided to balance out this commission and also say that if abuse of a minor is proven, it's sufficient and there's no need for recourse. If there is proof, period. It's definitive. Why? Not because of revulsion, but simply because the person who did this, man or woman, is sick. It's a sickness."

In its three years, the sex abuse commission has held educational workshops in dioceses around the world, but has faced such stiff resistance to some of its proposals at the Vatican that its most prominent member, Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins, resigned in frustration in March.

The commission's statutes and membership are up for review, and it remains to be seen if survivors of abuse will be included in the new membership roster.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston and head of the commission, told the pope that the commission had "benefited greatly" from listening to survivors, but made no mention of whether any were under consideration for membership.

On the membership front, he said only that the commission was seeking "representatives from churches in different parts of the world." Currently, priests, nuns and experts fill the ranks, including noted sociologists and psychologists in the field of abuse and child protection.

Read more on:    vatican city  |  child abuse  |  religion

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.