Pope Francis answered questions on the abuse scandal and the recent provisional agreement with China in a 57-minute press conference on the three hour flight from Tallinn to Rome on Sept. 25. But he devoted most of the time to questions relating to his recent visit to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and sharing his reflection on the situation in those countries, which he said “need our help.
Referring to the sexual abuse scandal in the church, it was pointed out that in his meeting with young people in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, he said they are troubled by the sexual abuse and financial scandals in the church, and the church’s failure to respond with clear condemnation. It was noted that a new report has been published in Germany on how the church dealt with sexual abuse. What did he have to add on this?
Francis said, “They [the young people] are scandalized by the hypocrisy of the old. They are scandalized by wars. They are scandalized by incoherence. They are scandalized by corruption, and in this there is also sexual abuse. It is true that there is an accusation against the church.”
He said: “We all know the statistics…but if only one priest were to abuse a boy or a girl, it is monstrous, because that man was chosen by God to bring children to heaven. I understand that young people are scandalized by this corruption. It is necessary [for the church] to bring people to God and not to destroy them.”
If only one priest were to abuse a boy or a girl, it is monstrous, because that man was chosen by God to bring children to heaven.
”Is the church not doing what it should to clean up this corruption?” he asked. Referring to revelations emerging from an exhaustive Pennsylvania grand jury report, Pope Francis noted that there “we see that in the first 70 years there were many priests who fell into this corruption, but in more recent times the number had decreased because the church understood it had to fight [the abuse] in a different way, and it has put everything into it [the fight] and it has done a lot.”
He noted that in the past the church has covered up abuse, just as abuse is covered up in families. “They covered up because it was a very big shame. It was the way of doing things in past centuries,” said the pope.
Francis then returned to a point about the interpretation of historical abuse that he has made in past press conferences. “There is a principle for interpreting history. A historical fact must be interpreted according to the hermeneutic of the time in which it happened, not with the hermeneutic of today.”
Then, referring to the advances made in the church in combating abuse, Francis said he has never offered pardon after a final verdict has resulted in conviction. “In recent times, I have received many, many condemnation [of abusers] from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and I say go on,” said the pope. “I have never, never given a pardon on a conviction.”