Pope Francis has acknowledged “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, realising the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives,” the Pope wrote.

Francis has issued a letter to Catholics around the world condemning the “atrocities” of priestly sexual abuse and demanding forgiveness for child abuse crimes and cover-ups within the Catholic Church, admitting that the pain of victims “was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced.”

There are long histories of sexual abuse also in Australia, Ireland and Chile. A report released last week implicated 300 ‘predator priests’ in six of the eight Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania. Today (20 August), the Vatican released a letter from Pope Francis addressing the report for the first time.

Former Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson. He is the world’s highest-ranking Catholic convicted of covering up sex abuse crimes.

The abuse has gone on for decades, the pope writing “we showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.” Pope Francis writes that ‘most of these cases belong to the past’ but the pain continues. He blasted the self-referential clerical culture that has been blamed for the crisis, with church leaders more concerned for their reputation than the safety of children.

Some victims were plied with alcohol and groped or molested, the report says. Others were orally, vaginally or anally raped, according to the grand jurors.
Francis’ conversations with victims over the years shaped the letter, which points out the need for urgent accountability both for those who committed the abuse and for those who covered it up — bishops, in many cases, said Vatican spokesman Greg Burke.
“This is about Ireland, this is about the United States and this is about Chile — but not only. Pope Francis has written to the people of God and that means everyone,” Burke said in an audio statement. “It’s significant that the Pope calls abuse a crime, not only a sin, and that he asks for forgiveness but he acknowledges that no effort to repair the damage done will ever be sufficient for victims and survivors.”
Looking ahead, the pontiff said the church was working on a “zero tolerance” policy on abuse and cover-ups. He added, “If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history.”
Bishopaccountability.org, a nonprofit advocacy group that tracks church abuse cases, says lawsuits have forced religious orders and dioceses to pay $3 billion in settlements.

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