Pope Francis Responds to Sex Abuse Scandal: ‘We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.’
“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…”
About six days after a report dropped that detailed the child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests in Pennsylvania, Pope Francis has released a statement tearing apart those involved in the abuse and cover-up. From The Washington Examiner:
“‘If one member suffers, all suffer together with it’ (1 Cor 12:26),” the pope wrote in his statement. “These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons.”
The pope said the crimes uncovered “inflict deep wounds of pain,” and said “no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient.’
“Looking ahead 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,” he wrote. “The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.”
“We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away,” Pope Francis wrote. “The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced.”
An 18 month investigation into six dioceses (Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton) revealed that over 1,000 children fell victim to predatory priests. The grand jury wrote that the “[P]riests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it. For decades.”
The Washington Post listed a few incidents:
In Erie, a 7-year-old boy was sexually abused by a priest who then told him he should go to confession and confess his “sins” to that same priest.
Another boy was repeatedly raped from ages 13 to 15 by a priest who bore down so hard on the boy’s back that it caused severe spine injuries. He became addicted to painkillers and later died of an overdose.
One victim in Pittsburgh was forced to pose naked as Christ on the cross while priests photographed him with a Polaroid camera. Priests gave the boy and others gold cross necklaces to mark them as being “groomed” for abuse.
Unfortunately, Pennsylvania State Attorney General Josh Shairo said “he was bound by the state’s statutes of limitation,” which says that “victims of child sex abuse have until they are 30 to file civil suits and until they are 50 to file criminal charges.” This means they probably won’t have many criminal cases linked to this investigation.
The grand jury mentions Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, as one who made efforts to conceal and hide the sexual abuse. He has insisted that he did nothing wrong. AG Shapiro has accused Wuerl of “not telling the truth.” From CNN:
The report is critical of Wuerl, who served as the bishop of Pittsburgh for 18 years, from 1988 to 2006, and describes him as one of the bishops who helped cover up abusive behavior. The cardinal’s defenders note that he acted to discipline some priests as bishop in Pittsburgh and even fought the Vatican against an order to reinstate a predator priest. After the release of the grand jury report on Tuesday, Wuerl said in a statement that it “confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse.”
The Pennsylvania attorney general disagrees. In a statement to CNN, Shapiro said, “Cardinal Wuerl is not telling the truth. Many of his statements in response to the Grand Jury Report are directly contradicted by the Church’s own documents and records from their Secret Archives. Offering misleading statements now only furthers the cover up.” Shapiro added that the cardinal “should heed the words of Pope Francis who validated our work in Pennsylvania and support the recommendations of the Grand Jury.”
Pope Francis begged for forgiveness and acknowledged that the Church didn’t do what it should have done to protect those most vulnerable:
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, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency! Christ’s betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)” (Ninth Station).
It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. 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.
Philly.com noted that Francis did not write about how “he is prepared to take to sanction those bishops — in the U.S. and beyond — who covered up for sexually abusive priests” and he “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.”
The publication also commented on Francis’s cabinet:
Francis also has kept on his nine-member kitchen cabinet a Chilean cardinal long accused of covering up for pedophiles, an Australian cardinal currently on trial for historic sex abuse charges and a Honduran cardinal recently implicated in a gay priest sex scandal involving his trusted deputy.
In Chile, where a church sex abuse scandal exploded earlier this year, Francis strong-armed the country’s 31 active bishops to offer their resignations en masse over their handling of abuse. So far he has accepted five of their resignations.
Francis asked everyone to participate in “penance and prayer” since that “will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils.” He wrote:
May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combatting all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it”, said Saint Paul. By an attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation. Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son’s cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus’ side. In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more upon prayer”, seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Spiritual Exercises, 319). She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.
May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.
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