Pope Francis issues new letter on sex abuse: ‘We showed no care for the little ones’

In this Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018 file photo, Pope Francis prays for the victims of the Kerala floods during the Angelus noon prayer in St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican. Pope Francis has issued a letter to Catholics around the world condemning the "crime" of priestly sexual abuse and cover-up and demanding accountability, in response to new revelations in the United States of decades of misconduct by the Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)

Pope Francis issued a letter to Catholics around the world Monday condemning the "crime" of priestly sexual abuse and its cover-up and demanding accountability, in response to new revelations in the United States of decades of misconduct by the Catholic Church.

Francis begged forgiveness for the pain suffered by victims and said lay Catholics must be involved in any effort to root out abuse and cover-up. 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.

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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," Francis wrote.

"We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them."

The Vatican issued the three-page letter ahead of Francis' trip this weekend to Ireland, a once staunchly Roman Catholic country where the church's credibility has been damaged by years of revelations that priests raped and molested children with impunity and their superiors covered up for them.

[Explore America's in-depth coverage of Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church.]

Priestly sex abuse was always expected to dominate the trip, but the issue has taken on new gravity following revelations in the U.S. that one of Francis' trusted cardinals, the retired archbishop of Washington Theodore McCarrick, allegedly sexually abused and harassed minors as well as adult seminarians.

In addition, a grand jury report in Pennsylvania last week reported that at least 1,000 children were victims of some 300 priests over the past 70 years, and that generations of bishops failed repeatedly to take measures to protect their flock or punish the rapists.

In the letter, which was issued in seven languages and addressed to the "People of God," Francis referenced the Pennsylvania report, acknowledged that no effort to beg forgiveness of the victims will be sufficient but vowed "never again."

He said, looking 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."

Francis didn't, however, provide any indication of what concrete measures he is prepared to take to sanction those bishops — in the U.S. and beyond — who covered up for sexually abusive priests. Francis several years ago 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.

In Chile, where a church sex abuse scandal exploded earlier this year, Francis strong-armed the 31 active bishops to offer to resign en masse over their handling of abuse. So far he has accepted five of their resignations.

Unlike the U.S. bishops' conference, which has referred only to "sins and omissions" in their handling of abuse, Francis labeled the misconduct "crimes."

"Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others," he wrote. "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."

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arthur mccaffrey
1 year ago

don't you mean Boston 2002, instead of Dallas.....?

Floyd Grabiel
1 year ago

The problem with the letter is that it represents incrementalism in the face of a situation that demands immediacy. Calls to penance and prayer and support for the victims are always proper and in line with our faith. The root of the problem however is clericalism as Francis rightly points out. Without boots on the ground, so to speak, a plea for penance and prayer becomes a sound bite reminiscent of politicians' expression of "thoughts and prayers" in response to school shootings. Boots on the ground in this case would require Francis to take some immediate action and expel the US Bishops and Cardinals for their collective failure to perform their essential duty to minister to the faithful.

Robert Lewis
1 year ago

Massive, injudicious and precipitous expulsion of the entire hierarchy would destroy the Catholic Church in America. The laity are not willing or sufficiently prepared to take over the hierarchy's duties. I'm for targeted laicising and defrocking, after a thorough and fair investigation conducted by lay people.

arthur mccaffrey
1 year ago

what are we supposed to call this letter? is it like Laudato Si, where we just use the first two Latin words?--based on the link to the Vatican document, maybe "Popolo di Dio"?

A Fielder
1 year ago

Arthur, in incipit is usually the first two words of the Latin text. “When one member suffers...” But I can’t find the Latin version yet to know how it will be translated.

A Fielder
1 year ago

Maybe Francis does not want this to be remembered.

Peter Schwimer
1 year ago

Please let us remember that the current grand jury report goes back 70 years and is processed through the norms of today. Not exactly fair. This in no way minimizes the the anguish and trauma victims experienced. Truth be told child abuse was not unlawful until 1965 or there abouts. Parents could do just about anything to a minor child with no legal repercussions. Before that society had no interest in the care of children and in fact it was not until the 1850's that childrens services as we know them were even thought of .
While we think it horrid today. In the 1700 and later, Catholics including religious organizations owned slaves in these United States.
That being said, the context is the present and while Francis has made a beginning, the Catholic Church needs to thoroughly modernize, some folks need to be fired, not allowed to resign. Bishops need to learn to trust the folks who pay the bill's and stop acting as though the have the "truth" and no one else can be allowed to participate. I love the phrase "we are all the people of God" until there are real decisions to be made, then only those who are ordained count.

Lisa Weber
1 year ago

Thank you for pointing out that the norms of the past were not the same as the norms of today and that the report goes back over 70 years. Your conclusion is accurate as well.

Crystal Watson
1 year ago

Just wait until the tsunami of abuse allegations starts rolling in from all the developing countries in Africa and Asia that are so touted by the church as its new growth areas. Just a matter of time.

A Fielder
1 year ago

In addition to abuses and rapes, even in the confessional, naive Americans will be surprised to know that many third world priests already have mistresses and children. The so-called “discipline” of celibacy is a global facade, it benefits the bishops economically, and is a total insult to to dignity of marriage. The bishops only think that they are defenders of traditional marriage.

James Haraldson
12 months ago

It requires profound idiocy to mock the discipline of chastity.

Joseph Clavijo
1 year ago

History has a way of repeating itself. Every 500 years a great Reformation occurs within the church. We are living in and through Reformation now. Pay attention to where God is in all of this!

lynne miller
1 year ago

Amen!

Joseph Clavijo
1 year ago

History has a way of repeating itself. Every 500 years a great Reformation occurs within the church. We are living in and through Reformation now. Pay attention to where God is in all of this!

Christopher Schaefer
1 year ago

Another apology that makes no mention of homosexuality. Compare Bishop Morlino's letter: "...It is time to admit that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is wreaking great devastation in the vineyard of the Lord..." http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/bishop-morlino-homosexual-subculture-is-a-source-of-devastation-in-the-chur

MJ Painter
1 year ago

Homosexuality is separate from pedophilia, though some anti-gay folks find it politically expedient to link the two. Best not to fall into that trap.

Paige Smyth
1 year ago

Morlino’s letter just says it like it is. He is 100% correct that there is a homosexual problem in the clergy. 80% of these cases are on post pubescent teen boys. These are homosexual men wanting homosexual sex with young men. Time to call a spade a spade like Morlino did. Kudos to him

Anne Grady
1 year ago

“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." Women priests, all priests can marry, women in leadership roles in the heirarchy, no more celibacy unless chosen by tbe very few. If women are not brought in then NOTHING WILL CHANGE!

John Mack
1 year ago

P report, Aug 20, 2018: "Francis several years ago 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. 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."

lynne miller
1 year ago

Francis is a gift to the Church. He recognizes that he hasn't acted quickly or forcefully enough, and he's trying to do that now. Getting rid of him isn't the answer. Granted, not all of us are guilty of conspiring in the abuse of children, but many suspected and said nothing, and as part of the body of Christ, the Church, we should all confess our failings and work to build a Church which is more open, more understanding, more pastoral. We can't afford to think that anyone is above question, or above temptation. We need to pray to strengthen each other and the Church as a whole. I believe this is what the Holy Father is saying in this letter - we are all the Church, and we must all work to perfect her.

John Chuchman
1 year ago

Same old, same old...
But when all is said and done, in church circles, priests' most heinous crimes and most egregious breaches of trust consign them to lay status, where the rest of us live our entire lives. Something is radically wrong with this picture.

John Chuchman
1 year ago

Same old, same old...
But when all is said and done, in church circles, priests' most heinous crimes and most egregious breaches of trust consign them to lay status, where the rest of us live our entire lives. Something is radically wrong with this picture.

John Chuchman
1 year ago

Same old, same old...
But when all is said and done, in church circles, priests' most heinous crimes and most egregious breaches of trust consign them to lay status, where the rest of us live our entire lives. Something is radically wrong with this picture.

John Chuchman
1 year ago

Even if all of the U.S. bishops were to resign (be fired from) their posts and be replaced with yet more clerics, little would improve. The structure, not just individuals who err, is the problem

John Chuchman
1 year ago

Even if all of the U.S. bishops were to resign (be fired from) their posts and be replaced with yet more clerics, little would improve. The structure, not just individuals who err, is the problem

Al Cannistraro
1 year ago

As Bill Mahar recently quipped, “ If all of this came out about Jiffy Lube, would anyone still go to Jiffy Lube??”
------------------------------------------
The AP story above and most of the comments ignore the portion of Pope Francis's letter that speaks of the need to abolish clericalism:

"It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives.[2] This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people”.[3] Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism."
https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-08/pope-francis-letter-people-of-god-sexual-abuse.html

To me, a cradle Catholic who has largely moved on and would not be considered "faithful" by most authors and commenters here, but a self-identified cultural Catholic nonetheless, the uphill fight against clericalism is an uphill fight for checks and balances. In my opinion, the worldwide Church can only hope to stop its slide into mindless fundamentalism if it opens itself up to governance that includes both male and female lay Catholics who are not necessarily 100% "faithful," and even "freethinking" to some extent.

Clearly, the bad actors in the current scandal, both predators and enablers, are not 100% faithful. Clearly, the average Catholic, who disregards much or probably even most official Catholic moral and doctrinal teachings on family, sexuality, the total continuity and unchanging nature of a "soul" or other human identifier from the moment of conception to the moment of death, moral obligations to others, and so on, likewise are not 100% faithful. And intelligent, independent minded Catholics whose common sense tells them that much or most or nearly all of Scripture, both OT and NT, is not history but very significant or even "holy" historical fiction -- they are not 100% faithful in the conventional sense of the word. Yet many remain Catholic to at least some extent because they love or cherish or otherwise are motivated to remain identified with the Church as a worldwide multi-cultural and religious institution.

Now, the scandals in the US on top of the many other national Catholic scandals around the world (and let's not overlook Guam), AND on top of other examples of systemic bad behavior in other areas over the centuries, lead many to question the integrity and even the "divine" nature of the Church at its core.

As Bill Mahar recently quipped, “ If all of this came out about Jiffy Lube, would anyone still go to Jiffy Lube??”

Many commenters on these pages, who might be of a right-leaning or authoritarian inclination, favor "purification." Purification reminds me of the torture and extermination of heretics, and apostates, Catholic religious warfare, racial slavery and genocide, and other similar values that have never been officially rejected but from which we all have moved on. So good luck with that!

I would like to recommend the following opinion piece from another, less restrained, Catholic periodical:
Churches should have the courage to recognize new revelations
https://tinyurl.com/opentonewrevelation

Paige Smyth
1 year ago

Time to address the large percentage of homosexual acts done to teen boys... post pubescent. No longer considered pedophilia. Just straight up homosexual attacks.

James Haraldson
1 year ago

Enough with this phony moral nihilist. He spent his first three years savagely mocking everyone who sought the reiteration of coherent God given Catholic truth, especially those who valued chastity, and accused them hysterically,, at great length, of “rigidity.” Even God doesn’t escape his insults. He has prided himself as a process theologian, insisting that God is still in process of figuring out how to be a good God. Now he is finally considering the moral absolute that children should not be raped? Where was he when accusations of such behavior were presented to him in Argentina. Oh that’s right, he was accusing the accuser of lying while he was a bishop.
So now the Marxist collectivizes guilt, thereby making it meaningless, since sin no longer exists, and hell no longer exists, and serial murderers, including those intent on murdering other prisoners and prison guards, have a special “dignity” they never loose. Maybe his endless progressivism will “discover” that child rape has previously unknown benefits and reconsider that all those who condemn it now are being rigid after all.

Krzysztof Ciuba
1 year ago

Yes. A blind guide (Matt15:14).Check his homily on 17xii2013:"Gesu a ...constantzialle ala madre" = contra even a traditional explanation of Trinity, the psychological one@now outdated once we have a modern logic (the meaning of relational names@material implication or the definition of description by B.Russell, 1910).simple a theological idiocy@ heresy! I have it in the archive in 3 languages as a proof on his IQ revealed just in one sentence!

Crystal Watson
1 year ago

In the news today - ""Virtually everyone knew": Priest says he repeatedly complained about Cardinal McCarrick" ... https://www.cbsnews.com/news/priest-says-he-repeatedly-warned-vatican-about-cardinal-theodore-mccarrick/

Mike Macrie
1 year ago

The Catholic Church should come out and break all ties to the Catholic Defense League and it’s President Bill Donahue. This man is still trying to deflect blame away from the scandal by pointing out that The Media is not focus on Michael Jackson who he accuses of being a Child Abuser. Bill Donahue uses the Catholic Defense League as a Republican Club to advance the GOP Agenda.

Danny Collins
1 year ago

Actions speak louder than words. When the Pope acts to remove "seminary protest" Maradiaga, "transfer and coverup" Wuerl, "payout, night night baby" Tobin, and "roomie" Farrell from their offices, then I'll believe that he truly cares about the victims and has understood the anger of the laity over the criminal systematic cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

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