Pope Francis calls on priests who abuse minors to hand themselves over
In his annual pre-Christmas address to the Roman Curia, Pope Francis appealed to “those who abuse minors,” saying: “Be converted and hand yourselves over to human justice, and prepare yourselves for the divine justice.”
His address this year concerned how the the church should handle the sex abuse crisis. “Let it be clear that in the face of these abominations the church will not hold back anything in doing all that is necessary to bring to justice whoever has committed these crimes. The church will never try to cover up or to underestimate any case.”
Be converted and hand yourselves over to human justice, and prepare yourselves for the divine justice.
The pope also acknowledged the past failures of leaders in the church to respond adequately to cases of abuse. “It’s undeniable that some persons in positions of responsibility, in the past, through a light-handed way [of doing things], or out of incredulity, or due to a lack of preparedness, or [because of] inexperience and spiritual and human superficiality, treated many cases without the necessary seriousness and promptness.”
Pope Francis said: “This must never happen again. This is the choice and decision of the whole church.”
Pope Francis said that for many years the church has been “seriously committed to rooting out the evil of abuses,” and noted that “God...does not ever forget the suffering lived by many minors because of clerics and consecrated persons: abuses of power, of conscience, and sexual.”
Pope Francis thanked the media for its role in uncovering sex abuse in the church, and appeared to distance himself from the media’s critics. He noted that “some within the church have railed against some media operators, accusing them of ignoring the 98 percent of the cases of abuse that are not committed by clerics, and of intentionally wishing to give a false image as if this evil only hit the Catholic church.”
Speaking on his own behalf, he said: “I instead wish to strongly thank those media operators that are honest and objective and that have sought to unmask those wolves and give voice to the victims.” He added, “even if one was dealing only with just one case of abuse—which of itself represents a monstrosity—the church asks not to keep silent but to bring it objectively to light, because the greatest scandal in this matter is that of covering up the truth.”
This must never happen again. This is the choice and decision of the whole church.
Pope Francis said abuses of power by consecrated men has hurt the church. “They do not fear God or his judgment, but fear only to be discovered and unmasked,” he said. The pope continued, saying that these men “lacerate the body of the church, causing scandals and discrediting the saving mission of the church and the sacrifice of so many of their brothers.”
He appealed to members of the Roman Curia for help in addressing sex abuse in the church. “Please, let us help Holy Mother Church in this difficult task,” he said, “that of recognizing the true cases (of abuse) and distinguishing them from the false ones, the accusations of calumny, the rancor of insinuations, the rumors of defamation.”
In his address, Pope Francis also talked about the meeting of the presidents of all the bishops’ conferences for Feb. 21 to 24 he has called to focus on the protection of children in the church. Drawing on the input of experts, he said “the church will ask herself how to protect children; how to avoid such disasters; how to care for and integrate the victims; how to reinforce the formation in seminaries.”
The pope said the church will seek to address abuse in wider society. The church “will not limit herself to curing self, but she will seek to face this’ evil that causes the slow death of so many persons, at the moral, psychological and human level,” he said.
Drawing near the end of his more than 30 minute-talk, Pope Francis talked about the tasks ahead of the church. “The strength of any institution does not reside in its being composed of perfect people (that is impossible),” he said, “but in the will to purify oneself continually; in the capacity to humbly recognize and correct errors; in the ability to get up again after the falls; in seeing the light of Christmas that starts from the manger in Bethlehem, goes through history and arrives at the Parousia”—the second coming of Christ.
The church will ask herself how to protect children; how to avoid such disasters; how to care for and integrate the victims; how to reinforce the formation in seminaries.
The pope said Christmas “gives us the certainty every year that the light of God will continue to shine notwithstanding our human misery: and the certainty that the church will emerge from these tribulations, still more beautiful and purified and splendid.”
This is so, Pope Francis said, “because all the sins, falls and the evil committed by some sons of the church cannot ever obscure the beauty of her face, rather they give the certain proof that her strength is not in us, but above all in Jesus Christ, the savior of the world and the light of the universe, who loves her and has given his life for here.”
Pope Francis concluded on a note of hope.“Christmas is the feast that fills us with joy and gives us the certainty that no sin will ever be greater that the mercy of God,” he said, “and that no human act can ever prevent the dawn of the divine light being born and reborn in the hearts of people.”