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Francis: I ask forgiveness for damage caused by abusers

By on Friday, 11 April 2014

Pope Francis will address the heads of the UN’s agencies amid claims that UN committees are unfairly targeting the Catholic Church   (PA)

Pope Francis will address the heads of the UN’s agencies amid claims that UN committees are unfairly targeting the Catholic Church (PA)

“I feel called to take responsibility for all the evil some priests – large in number, but not in proportion to the total – have committed and to ask forgiveness for the damage they’ve done with the sexual abuse of children,” Pope Francis has said.

“The Church is aware of this damage” and is committed to strengthening child protection programs and punishing offenders, he told members of the International Catholic Child Bureau during a meeting today at the Vatican.

The remarks appeared to be the Pope’s first apology for the sex abuse scandal, following earlier statements affirming the Vatican’s work investigating and punishing perpetrators, and encouraging bishops to support abuse victims. The Pope also has said the Church deserves to be forced to make monetary settlements to victims.

In December, Pope Francis established a Vatican commission to promote improved child protections policies throughout the church.

Meeting with leaders of the International Catholic Child Bureau, an organization based in France and dedicated to defending children’s rights, Pope Francis said it was hard to believe “men of the church” would commit such horrors.

“We don’t want to take a step backward in dealing with this problem and with the sanctions that must be imposed,” the Pope said. “On the contrary, I believe we must be very strong. You don’t play with children’s lives!”

Pope Francis also spoke about the importance of defending children’s right “to grow in a family with a mother and father able to create a healthy environment for their growth and affective maturity,” which includes “maturing in relationship to the masculinity and femininity of a father and a mother.”

Parents have a right to determine the appropriate “moral and religious education” of their children, he said, and should not be subject to school curriculums that are thinly veiled courses of indoctrination into whatever ideology is strongest at the moment.

The Pope said he wonders sometimes whether parents are “sending a child to school or to a re-education camp” like those run by dictatorial governments.

Obviously, he said, children need help in responding to the problems and challenges contemporary culture and the media raise. Young people can’t be kept in “glass jars,” but must be given the values that will help them evaluate what cultural trends respect their dignity and freedom and the dignity and freedom of others.

  • Jonathan West

    But it hasn’t been implemented consistently across the church. For instance as recently as 2011 Downside Abbey was harbouring several unreported alleged abusers, and when a former monk resumed the monastic vocation at Glenstall Abbey, did not warn Glenstall of past problems regarding that monk’s behaviour towards children.

    In 2010, an inspection by the Independent Schools Inspectorate of St Benedict’s School attached to Ealing Abbey found that the school and abbey had failed to notify the authorities of abuse by several monks and teachers. It took me four years of solid campaigning to get St Benedict’s to issue a safeguarding policy which removed any discretion from the school as to whether it would report child protection concerns to the authorities.

    This kind of foot-dragging does not give me confidence that the church has wholeheartedly acknowledged the need promptly to share child protection concerns with the secular authorities.

  • MIKE

    Let’s not forget – - – CHRIST’s CHURCH is HOLY.
    God does not make junk.
    The Pope is speaking on behalf of the entire world-wide Church, as the successor of Peter, which includes speaking on our behalf as well.
    (Not merely the very small percentage of those who sinned against God and His children.)

    Human beings within the Church are sinners, whom with repentance Christ will forgive.
    Christ’s 12 Apostles were sinners. (Peter denied God 3 times.)

    Let’s pray for the abused children (who for the most part are now in their 30′s and older).
    We should pray for the Pope, all Bishops, and all Priests that they be Holy.
    The devil rejoices over the sins of the consecrated.

  • MIKE

    Jesus expects all of us to forgive. See the Lord’s Prayer – Mt 6:12 and Mt 6:15, and Lk 11-4; and many other passages.

    If we want Jesus to forgive our sins, then we must forgive all others.
    It is never to early to ask for forgiveness. It is never to early to forgive others.
    (Most of the abuse cases took place more than 15 years ago.)

    Remember WE are ALL Christ’s Church, it is not just Clergy who are the “Church”.

    CCC: “751 The word “Church” (Latin ecclesia, from the Greek ek-ka-lein, to “call out of”) means a convocation or an assembly.
    It designates the assemblies of the people, usually for a religious purpose. Ekklesia is used frequently in the Greek Old Testament for the assembly of the Chosen People before God, above all for their assembly on Mount Sinai where Israel received the Law and was established by God as his holy people.
    By calling itself “Church,” the first community of Christian believers recognized itself as heir to that assembly.
    In the Church, God is “calling together” his people from all the ends of the earth. The equivalent Greek term Kyriake, from which the English word Church and the German Kirche are derived, means “what belongs to the Lord.”

  • MIKE

    CCC: ” 766 The Church is born primarily of Christ’s total self-giving for our salvation, anticipated in the institution of the Eucharist and fulfilled on the cross.
    The origin and growth of the Church are symbolized by the blood and water which flowed from the open side of the crucified Jesus.
    For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth the ‘wondrous sacrament of the whole Church. As Eve was formed from the sleeping Adam’s side, so the Church was born from the pierced heart of Christ hanging dead on the cross.”

  • MIKE

    Not if people adhere to the requirements on each of us to forgive – per the words of Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer.
    No one gets a pass on forgiveness. Jesus did NOT say that “some will not be required to forgive others”.

  • MIKE

    The Church is NOT- – - “them”.
    The Church is NOT – - – “it”.
    The Church IS – - – all of “US”.

  • Sara_TMS_again

    Strong words- why exactly do you think that, when you agree they are probably both saints? Are you worried that the next Pope will always have an affection for the previous one, and so his judgement will be questionable?

    I agree more time should have been left in the case of JP II, but he had, and has, such a popular cult, as has John XXIII. Isn’t canonisation ultimately a response to the call of the people, confirming or otherwise their cult?

  • Sara_TMS_again

    Well, surely JPII did show a lot of heroic virtue?

  • Sara_TMS_again

    I assume what he means by the right of a child to be born with a father and a mother is the right to know the identity of father and mother (which is in the UN convention).

    But I agree that the prostitution of rights language does not help. (Do I rightly take you to be against rights language in general?)

  • Tridentinus

    No, both popes were controversial and openly criticised by people still alive today. John XXIII is regarded by many as being responsible for the massive exodus of Catholics after the Council he called. and the current unofficial schism which exists in the Church today. John-Paul II is widely believed to have turned a blind eye to the abuse of children by priests and of being too close to Fr Marcial Maciel. Whether there is any truth in these allegations is unimportant, it is the perception that matters.
    Also it gives the impression that one only has to be a pope in order to be canonised and what does it say about a pope who is not canonised.
    The Catholic Church has more saints than it can fit into the calendar, does it need any more?

  • Sara_TMS_again

    I agree with you that there is a problem if papal canonisation comes to be seen as the default setting. I would like to see Pope Francis, explicitly backed up by Benedict, issue a norm that the causes of Popes are not to be considered for a period of at least 20 years after their deaths. But they may consider that unseemly.

    A Pope doesn’t have to be beyond criticism, or even particularly successful as Pope, to be canonised. Look at Celestine V. I agree that there is a problem about JP II and Maciel- as you know, I take the views of abuse survivors very seriously, and they are not happy about this. I also think the Devil’s Advocate should be restored. But on the other hand, the key step in both cases was beatification, because any Pope who has an approved local cult will inevitably have a universal one, since his ministry was to the whole Church. So once you beatify a Pope, it’s hard to see why you wouldn’t canonise him.

    As regards saints in general, I think there are basically two views on that- the careful one, which says there should be few and well proven saints, and the populist one (e.g. JP II’s policy), that says there should be lots, and that new Catholic communities around the world should be encouraged to put people forward. I incline to the latter view, though I think it’s important that the process is free from any suspicion of simony. But I can’t see that it makes sense to believe that we shouldn’t have any more saints- any more than it makes sense to believe the Holy Spirit suddenly stopped working in the Church at some point (as Protestants believe).

  • Tridentinus

    I agree that if a pope is beatified he will have to be canonised at some stage. I agree, too, with the restoration of the Devil’s Advocate.
    I’m afraid that the child-abuse scandal will always mar Pope John-Paul’s reputation. The terrible abuse that both he and Benedict are subject to in the on-line comments section of ‘another’ publication (I’m sure you know the one I’m talking about) are not going to go away.

  • Sara_TMS_again

    Well, it makes for an interesting Catholic world for everyone to play ‘Good Pope, bad Pope’ all the time. There is a case for saying we are all a bit papolatrous, but on the other hand the Pope is the great symbol of unity in the Church today, which is more and more clearly what makes the Catholic Church stand out in the world, not just over against other Christians but over against those of ‘all religions and none’. Nobody else even tries to take unity seriously like we do, with all our fighting.

    It’s not a straight left-right split, because you can find both conservatives and lefties arguing for and against all the Popes in living memory. I get very tired of some of the NCR demonising the hierarchy nonsense, but then even there people appreciate that Benedict did indeed take some important steps- in fact, Francis’ own clear inability to see the cover-up problem has made some people rethink their views on Benedict, and recognise how important a step he made in taking on Maciel despite his duping of JP II.