Pope: "Church will apply firmest measures against those who abuse minors"
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has reiterated his pledge to combat the evil of clerical sex abuse affirming that at all levels, the Church will continue to respond applying the firmest of measures to “all those who have betrayed their call and abused God’s children.
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He was addressing members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors gathered for their Plenary Assembly.
The Commission is an institution that was established by the Pope to propose initiatives that ensure that crimes that have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church.
In prepared remarks and after having listened to the greetings of Commission President, Cardinal O’Malley and other members of the Commission, Pope Francis said “I wish to share with you the profound pain I feel in my soul for the situation of abused children, as I have had occasion to do recently several times”.
Painful experience for the Church
Describing the sex abuse scandal as a terrible evil for the whole of humanity, the Pope said it has also been a very painful experience for the Church: “We are ashamed of the abuses committed by holy ministers, who should be the most trustworthy”.
“Let me say quite clearly that sexual abuse is a horrible sin, completely opposite and in contradiction to what Christ and the Church teach us” he said.
Recalling the fact that he has had the privilege of listening to the stories that victims and survivors of abuses have wanted to share, Pope Francis observed that meetings such as these continue to nourish the personal commitment of all involved in the Commission to do everything possible to combat this evil and eliminate it.
The Church to respond at all levels with the firmest measures
“That is why, I reiterate today once again that the Church, at all levels, will respond with the application of the firmest measures against all those who have betrayed their call and abused the children of God” he said.
The Pope stressed that the disciplinary measures must apply to all those who work in the institutions of the Church, but he pointed out that “the primary responsibility lies with Bishops, priests and religious”: those who have received from the Lord the vocation to offer their lives to serving the Church and this includes “the vigilant protection of all vulnerable children, young people and adults”.
“For this reason, the Church irrevocably and at all levels seeks to apply the principle of “zero tolerance” against sexual abuse of minors” he said.
The Pope recalled his Motu Proprio entitled “As a Loving Mother” that was promulgated on the basis of a proposal by the Commission and in reference to the principle of responsibility in the Church. He said it addresses the cases of Diocesan Bishops, Eparches and Superior Generals of religious institutes who, through negligence, have carried out or omitted acts that may have caused serious harm to others, whether individuals or a community as a whole (see Article 1).
He said that over the last three years, since its establishment the Commission has consistently emphasized the most important principles guiding the Church’s efforts to protect all vulnerable children and adults, thus fulfilling the mission entrusted to it as a “consultative function in the service of the Holy Father”, offering its experience “in order to promote the responsibility of particular Churches in the protection of all minors and vulnerable adults” (Statute, Article 1).
Pope Francis said he was delighted to learn that many particular Churches have adopted the Commission’s recommendation for a Day of Prayer, and for dialogue with victims and survivors of abuses, as well as with representatives of victim organizations.
“It is also encouraging to know how many Episcopal Conferences and Conferences of Superior Generals have sought your advice regarding the Guidelines for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults” he said.
Value of sharing best practices
He emphasized the value of sharing best practices – especially for those Churches that have fewer resources for this crucial work of protection – and encouraged the Commission to continue its collaboration with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples “so that these practices may be inculturated in the different Churches around the world”.
Lastly, Pope Francis praised the many initiatives that offer opportunities for learning, education and training promoted by the Commission as well as the fact that a presentation made last week to new bishops has been so favorably received.
“These educational programs offer the kind of resources that will enable Dioceses, Religious Institutes and all Catholic institutions to adopt and implement the most effective materials for this work”.
The Church: a place of piety and compassion
The Pope concluded his address highlighting the fact that the Church is called to be a place of piety and compassion, especially for those who have suffered.
“For all of us, the Catholic Church remains a field hospital that accompanies us on our spiritual journey. It is the place where we can sit with others, listen to them and share with them our struggles and our faith in the good news of Jesus Christ. I am 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. Because we have much to learn from them and their personal stories of courage and perseverance” he said.