Pope Apologizes To The Abused For Sins Of The Church

On Monday Pope Francis expressed personal “sorrow” to victims of clergy sex abuse in a strongly worded private mass at the Vatican Chapel. The scandal of a systemic cover up of abused children first came to light under John Paul II in 1979, and has shaken the Roman Catholic Church. Francis said it has had “a toxic effect on faith and hope in God” and called the abusers “a sacrilegious cult.” During his most compelling condemnation in the mass Francis pledged,

…not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not.

Francis acknowledged the abuse resulted in addictions and even suicide of some of the victims,

These deaths of these so beloved children of God weigh upon the heart and my conscience and that of the whole church.

When they arrived on Sunday the three men and three women, two Irish, two British and two German, met privately with Frances at his Vatican residence for about a half an hour per person. Abuse survivors who did not meet with Francis said the special meeting was of no benefit, since the Vatican still has not punished those who covered up the abuse of minors. In a text released by the Vatican, Francis said,

Before God and his people, I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness. I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves.

Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI met with the victims within the first 15 months of their papacy, Francis did not. His detractors believed the Pope was, “insensitive by critics, especially given the empathetic nature of his papacy.” For years advocacy groups for the abuse survivors denounced the Vatican, both Benedict and Francis, for not firing nor otherwise disciplining the accused bishops and prelates. On the contrary the bishops silently reassigned the pedophile priests from dioceses to dioceses and/or did not report allegations to the police. One of the victims, Marie Kane, 43, suffered abuse from a Dublin priest and said that her meeting with the Pope was “pretty amazing” and Francis “listened intently” according to The Irish Independent. She said,

There was no pomp or ceremony, and plus he is not really tall, so he is not towering over you, which is really nice. He holds eye contact very well.

She told Francis she needed the all the accused bishops removed and until then the church has not fulfilled its “greater accountability.” Mary Caplan, a member of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, an advocacy group said,

These meetings are public relations coups for the Vatican and distracting placebos for others.  They provide temporary but false hope.

Anne Barrett Doyle co-director of another victims advocacy group, BishopAccountability.org, asked Francis to meet with victims from his native Argentina,

…to revise canon law to require bishops to report suspicions of sexual abuse to the civil authorities.

The group approved of the meeting as “a positive and necessary step” and said Francis’ promise to discipline the erring bishops was “a significant and historic promise.” Rev. Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman said,

This is an important step on a path of healing and reconciliation.

Francis has made a good start in dealing with these crimes. If the Pope cannot protect the little children, then who can?