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Pope Francis asks for ‘decisive action’ on clerical sex abuse

By on Friday, 5 April 2013

Archbishop Müller, left, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Photo: CNS)

Archbishop Müller, left, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Photo: CNS)

Pope Francis has called for a policy of “decisive action” over cases of clerical abuse, according to a Vatican communiqué.

At a meeting today the Pope asked Archbishop Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to “continue the line desired by Benedict XVI… primarily by promoting measures for child protection; help for the many who in the past have suffered such violence; due process against those who are guilty; the commitment of bishops’ conferences in the formulation and implementation of the necessary directives in this area which is of great importance to the witness of the Church and its credibility”, the Vatican statement said.

The statement, translated by Vatican Radio, said: “The Holy Father assured that the victims of abuse and their suffering are especially present in his thoughts and prayers.”

  • cathy raats

    Maybe it takes an Archbishop Cardinal from afar to sort this shameful mess out. Please God hthe Holy Father does.

  • anon

    Why no mention of ‘spiritual battle’?:- St Francis exorcising the demons at Arezzo, an example among many.

  • Robert Tickle

    There is no need for hysteria. The reality is that there were only about 80 cases in the US over a 30 year period. Bad, yes; but not what the media woul;d have you believe. See here. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/brendanoneill2/100202781/catholic-bashers-have-embellished-the-truth-about-abuse-in-catholic-institutions-its-time-to-put-the-record-straight/

  • anon

    We do not have selective amnesia regarding euthanasia, abortion or other prevalent abuses, we only observe and note the effect of this dispiriting scandal on ‘the witness of the Church and (her) credibility’

  • Tori Delsey

    While I applaud Pope Francis’ stance against clerical abuse, invoking credibility as an important reason to do so is an unfortunate use of words. The purpose of hiding abuse in the first place was to protect the credibility of the Church. To suggest that the motivation for reform is also to protect credibility is pandering to the cause of the problem, not the solution.

    Another embarrassing scandal will sooner or later arise again in the Church as it does in individual lives and organizations of all kinds. Demonstrating how to rise above our preference for image over truth would be a lesson worthy of a church. It would be of far greater importance to us flawed humans than admonitions to protect credibility.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    You clearly haven’t the foggiest — Cardinal Ratzinger, then Pope Benediict, engaged in a 30-year effort to wrest responsibility out of the hands of the Bishops, and the Congregations for the Clergy and for the Bishops, and into those of the Holy See and the Congregation of the Faith, and to turn the Canon Law into an effective tool for child protection, rather than the toothless tiger that it used to be.

    Without Benedict’s saintly efforts, today’s call by the Pope would have been quite simply impossible.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    You may be unaware of the double meaning of the word in the Italian — in addition to the English “credibility”, it also means something like “fit to be believed in”.

    It’s not just political — it’s an implicit statement that the struggle against child abuse is a task of the New Evangelisation.

  • fromphil2bobby

    I do think this man has been chosen by God to rectify the problems within the Catholic church, I am glad he experienced meeting the girl at his uncle Wedding who ‘dazzled’ him with her beauty before he was ordained priest as it points out the very need of the problem that celibacy should be abolished, so I thank God this man has been chosen as our Pope, he can and will fix things…..please people trust him, I do.

  • Sara_TMS_again

    Benedict clearly did begin the work of taking abuse seriously (note also what Francis’ sister says about this- see today’s Catholic must-reads- which is very interesting), but this form of words is also part of Francis’ continual careful respect for his predecessor- and, indeed, a way of expressing that what he is doing is not new.

    However, there is a key difference- he has talked about helping the victims of past abuse, which as far as I know was not talked of before.

    Survivors’ groups are rightly saying they want to see actions, not just words, and fair enough. But I think he really does seem to get the seriousness of abuse and the importance of taking action.

    The other side of this is whether this is a way of diverting the energies of the CDF from other things, in a way that they cannot argue with. No doubt we shall hear whether this is the case in time.

  • Tori Delsey

    Thank you for the insight into the Italian meanings. In English also I think the word “credibility” carries an implication of trustworthiness that inspires confidence. Institutions and individuals recognize the value of a good reputation and want to be believed in. Consequently, most try to develop and emphasize good points and minimize and deemphasize shortcomings.

    The problem is what to do when the inevitable mistake first comes into
    consciousness either in an individual or an organization. Many times the
    overriding instinct is first to protect the hard-won good reputation or credibility.
    Thus cover-ups and sneaky work-arounds are born and perpetuated. It is this
    very human instinctual response that deserves direct attention if future
    large-scale scandals are to be avoided.

    Pope Benedict’s and Pope Francis’ recommendations for dealing with sexual abuse are good and necessary, but they are after-the-fact of a problem getting out-of-hand.

    What is needed to minimize the scale of the next tragedy, whatever its nature?
    I submit that at such times suppressing that overwhelming urge to protect one’s
    appearance is an appropriate first step, and in line with Pope Francis’ natural humility. Ultimately, that will lead to credibility, but as a side-effect, not a primary goal.

  • paulpriest

    Oh but Jabba don’t forget we’ve been bombarded with revisionism regarding Pope Benedict from the likes of John Allen [saying he was one of the 'in denial' brigade] and the Catholic Voices mob who have repeatedly stated in the media that Cardinal Ratzinger was ‘ignorant of the severity until 12 years ago’ [even to the extent of printing in their book that his 1988 [clearing out the filth] letter was written a decade later!!]

  • Sara_TMS_again

    On the question of actions speaking louder than words- is this Pope Francis’ first action on child abuse? http://ncronline.org//news/accountability/settlement-surprises-wisconsin-plaintiffs

    Remember, he was elected on March 13th- this case was agreed on March 19th, the day Francis was inaugurated and the feast of St Joseph the protector of the holy family.

  • Pope Zicola

    Pope Benedict XVI broke the ground… Pope Francis will build on it.

    Penance, penance, penance (Our Lady of Lourdes to St Bernadette Soubirous)

    Prayers, prayers, prayers!

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    However, there is a key difference- he has talked about helping the
    victims of past abuse, which as far as I know was not talked of before

    In fact, it has been mentioned numerous times since the 1990s — and it forms a part of the backbone of the policy that the Holy See, and Popes Benedict XVI and Francis, has built to tackle this problem.

  • Dr Falk

    Dear Robert,

    I will need time to read and study this but find it hard to believe. We have all seen the newspaper reports,TV reports and convictions. I know in my own diocese priests imprisoned or found guilty or dead now but investigated in the past by the police. In the case of Father John Geoghan in Boston the Archdiocese made settlement ‘ a $10 million settlement with 86 other alleged victims.’ This is from the Boston Globe website. If you don’t believe this you could email the Boston Archdiocese and ask them.

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    Her some of the THINKING is just FEELING based! A Teenager?

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    In solving this problem, consulting practising parishioners of the Churches wherever the Priest concerned was appointed to serve will help.

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

  • Jonathan West

    Pope Francis could make a start by having some questions asked around Rome to see where Fr Laurence Soper is. He is wanted by the police of suspicion of child sex offences and a European Arrest Warrant has been issued for him.

    The last definite sighting of Soper was when he left the Benedictine HQ at Collegio Sant’Anselmo supposedly on his way to the UK for a police bail appointment, unless the reports are true of him having subsequently visited Rome to empty his Vatican bank account.

  • cl

    Regretfully, the secular makes no mention of the positive efforts by Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI in combating clerical abuse. Starting from his days as prefect of CDF, he has unwaveringly gone head-on against the false liberal teachings of many Catholic theologians as well as touching on highly contentious issues in the Church. He has done more than any Pope in recent memory in steering the Church in turbulent waters. Thank God Francis is adhering to Benedict’s direction.

  • cl

    Regretfully, the secular media makes no mention of the positive efforts by Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI in combating clerical abuse. Starting from his days as prefect of CDF, he has unwaveringly gone head-on against the false liberal teachings of many Catholic theologians as well as touching on highly contentious issues in the Church. He has done more than any Pope in recent memory in steering the Church in turbulent waters. Thank God Francis is adhering to Benedict’s direction.

  • James M

    Which is not much of recommendation for the Church. Why was a “30-year effort to wrest responsibility out of the hands of the Bishops” even necessary ? Churchmen don’t deserve credit for doing something that is no more than their job – no-one does. Not according to this:

    Luk 17:6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, ‘Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
    Luk 17:7 “Will any one of you, who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep, say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down at table’?
    Luk 17:8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and gird yourself and serve me, till I eat and drink; and afterward you shall eat and drink’?
    Luk 17:9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?
    Luk 17:10 So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

    ## [my italics]

  • James M

    1. Celibacy is not the issue.

    2. Clerical continence needs to stay. Plenty of Catholics not in the clergy manage it – are priests really not able to ? Allowing for human weakness is all very well, but it can’t be the sole consideration.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    Why was a “30-year effort to wrest responsibility out of the hands of the Bishops” even necessary ?

    Because of politics, and because consent from the College of Bishops is a required prerequisite of removing any of their ordinarily sovereign power away from them.

  • Brian

    Paedophilia has one of the highest rates of recidivism of any crime therefore action to protect children has to involve the incarceration of priests. Most paedophiles privately believe the child wants their advances. Furthermore they believe they have the right to act out their sexual desires.It means that children are particularly in danger and there is not much logic or real remorse to speak to within the perpetrator. I wish the church would better educate itself on these issues and understand forgiveness of the priest does not mean they shouldn’t be made to account for their actions in law and above all else the duty of the Church is to protect the child. Abuse ruins lives. Decisive action must mean the Curch does not collude with the depraved desires and thoughts of the paedophile so zero tolerance. The action so far has been pitiful.

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    VOCATION and Profession are different.

  • vito

    “Clerical sex abuse”. I get confused. Who abused whom? Sex abused clerics or clerics sex? I think the problem is not the abuse of sex, but of children. The problem is institutionalised CHILD RAPE. Let’s called it what it is

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    “Pope Benedict XVI broke the ground… Pope Francis will build on it.”

    Your are RIGHT.

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    Let us PRAY that our Pope will progress in the WAY of THE LORD and become a TRUE APOSTLE like Peter (who IN THE NAME OF Jesus of Nazareth commanded a Crippled Beggar placed at the gate of the temple called, “the Beautiful Gate” Ref, Acts.3,1-10).

    Pope Francis is already unique in the way of his going about, less official and more human, simple and spontaneous. IF HE DOES NOT MAKE ENEMIES of other Religions, he can do well with the Lord’s grace and thus inspire all Christians to be ORIGINAL in following Jesus The Lord and thus BE TRUE APOSTLES in their turn.

    ONLY APOSTLES ( for they are people who have already entered the Kingdom unlike the Pharisees, Scribes and the rest of their combine,) CAN EVANGELIZE others for they themselves are totally evangelized and given to the Lord’s work of PROCLAIMING HIS WORD of Salvation..

    Mostly Popes, Cardinals, Bishops, Priests and the Hybrid Variety called “Religious” (who just keep Vows and Cows, and practically their following Jesus THE LORD, taking up his Cross which make people fit for the KINGDOM, is made a side business) are not found presenting credible Signs of the Kingdom through their lives. So the World is not getting evangelized even after two thousand years.

    LET US always REMEMBER that Pope Francis is the Person who is now occupying the OFFICE OF PETER THE APOSTLE and that we need to KEEP PRAYING FOR HIM.

    Look how inspiring and inspired is Peter’s command to the Crippled Beggar in the NAME OF JESUS in the narration of St.Luke in the ACTS of the Apostles, “Now Peter and John were going to the temple area for three o’clock hour of prayer. And a man crippled from birth was carried and placed at the gate of the temple called “the Beautiful Gate” every day to beg for arms from the people who entered the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for arms. But Peter looking intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have i give: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazareth rise and walk.” Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong. He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the one who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with amazement and astonishment at what had happened to him.”

    When SUCH things start happening in the case of Pope Francis who new occupies PETER’S OFFICE, the world will take note and recognize that the RELIGION OF JESUS THE LORD makes the difference.

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

  • BlagMeister

    Until the church opens up and allows respected law enforcement agencies to investigate this matter, there will be no credibility. It is impossible for the church to police itself, there are simply too many conflicts of interest. The pope wants to see an end to paedophillia in the church but is he prepared to pay the price of openness. I fear that the answer is no. The church is a secretive, insular, male dominated hierarchy. This is the perfect environment for such crime to breed.

    I am not a catholic but I’m telling you this in good faith. The church will not gain any respect until it is seen to be clean.

  • Dr Falk

    Dear Paul,

    Thanks for your response. The Catholic Church has made major safeguarding changes and this has helped have a better safeguarding culture. However I do agree with you that we have had a secretive and insular culture and that as a result of this 1000′s of children have been assaulted and harmed. This is an appalling evil and the Church has lost all moral authority through this. This problem goes back a long time. I think we need a branch and root reform. I would personally support a plan to ‘open the books’ of every diocese and order to a responsible and independant committee so that the whole record of child abuse can be seen and then we can see how the church has actually handled this. I would want this for every bishop from the most liberal like Bishop Gaillot to the most conservative like Archbishop Lefebvre. I agree that law enforcement agencies should be called in immediately to investigate. To be honest Paul the handling of this issue has sickened me. With all good wishes,

  • Dr Falk

    Yes that’s right – historically the Church also had castrati – the abuse of children for musical purposes. The Italian Goverment forbade it in 1861 following the French legal code which outlawed this practice. The Church finally dropped it in 1903.

  • MarkWilliam

    The meeting between Pope Francis and Archbishop Muller (and also the related statement) was focused on the clerical sexual abuse of minors. While we can all agree (I hope) that the abuse of minors must stop (and that the known culprits must be acted against), it seems to me that there is a very much bigger issue to be tackled – namely, the widespread sexual activity of many priests – by which I mean sexual activity whether heterosexual, homosexual, consensual or otherwise, whether with children teenagers or adults.

    Enforced celibacy cannot be a sufficient answer, because we now know (from the worldwide torrent of priest scandal cases, going back over many decades) that celibacy has not proved possible for enough priests. Equally, the Church’s old policy of ‘covering up’ when lapses have occurred (which was a reprehensible policy) has also out-lived its shelf life, since no-one will now believe the cover-ups.

    The sexual activity by clergymen seems to be accompanied by tacit acceptance (that is, they will argue that it is not a problem, it is not a sin) and/or by hypocrisy (for example, the offenders seem able, despite their own life-styles, to instruct their parishioners to obey all of the Church’s sexual rules). Both of these two approaches have been very destructive of the Church’s witness and credibility.

    I do not have the answers. But I hope that Pope Francis and his advisers are trying to find some answers. Something needs to be done – and it will need to be very much smarter than simply trying (as has been tried) to reduce or eradicate the recruitment into the seminaries of men who are likely to be active homosexuals. The real issue is clerical sexual activity, of all types.

  • Thomas Gallagher

    Let’s get some basic facts straight: it was in the year 2001 that then-Cardinal Ratzinger issued a formal requirement that bishops refer cases of paedophilia and ephebophilia to Rome for adjudication –’Sex Abuse Scandal: Did Archbishop Ratzinger Help Shield Perpetrator from Prosecution?’ by Dietmar Hipp, Frank Hornig, Conny Neumann, Sven Röbel and Peter Wensierski, Spiegel Magazine on-line, 2010.

    Whence comes JabbaPapa’s assertion of a noble 30-year-long effort by Cardinal Ratzinger to wrest responsibility out of the hands of bishops? This sort of assertion is simply nonsense.

    The underlying problem here: a theological one: many priests who were formed and ordained in the heady days after Vatican II became great supporters of a new notion of sin: sin is whatever separates me from God. It is no longer to be viewed as an objective offense, but rather as a consequentialist state of mind. “So long as I feel that God loves me, and I love God, then my actions are not culpable.” Bad theology makes bad priests, just exactly as it makes bad laymen.