The criticism remains severe for the Catholic Church over the latest horrifying child sex abuse scandal in Pennsylvania. A grand jury report out last week said some 300 priests abused at least 1,000 children over the past 70 years — and that church leaders did not take adequate measures to protect the young faithful or to punish those responsible.
Indeed, in some or even many cases, perpetrators were merely moved around from parish to parish.
Initially, the Vatican issued only the amazing response of “no comment.”
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That was last Wednesday.
Then, on Thursday, the Vatican spoke out about the heartbreaking report: Spokesman Greg Burke said the Catholic Church felt “shame and sorrow” for the hundreds of child sex abuse victims and pressed for accountability in the wake of the horrific revelations.
“The Church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur,” Burke said in the statement.
Ownership of the unimaginable crimes committed by clergy in the Catholic Church now finally appears to have begun with strong condemnation from Pope Francis.
The pope released a statement before his trip this weekend to Ireland, a heavily Catholic country that has dealt with similar reports of clergy members molesting children for decades, the New York Post reported.
The condemnation came in the form of a three-page letter the Vatican released. The pontiff recognized the church’s role in the child abuse crimes by often speaking of the church in collective terms.
“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,” he wrote.
“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,” he continued.
“Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others.”
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“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,” he also said. “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”
“We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite,” the pope added.
The grand jury’s report last week estimated that 300 church members molested and raped over a 1,000 children, and the crimes were systematically covered up. It is unlikely charges can be brought against the overwhelming majority of suspected perpetrators, according to the report.
“As a consequence of the cover-up, almost every instance of abuse we found is too old to be prosecuted,” the report states.
See a report on the pope’s statement, below.