Francis defends response to clergy abuse

Pope Francis answers questions on the papal plane yesterday (CNS/Paul Haring)

The Church has grown in its understanding of the horror of clerical sexual abuse and of the “corruption” of covering it up, Pope Francis said yesterday. Source: The Tablet.

Returning to Rome from his four-day trip to the Baltic nations, Pope Francis was asked about his remarks to young people in Tallinn, Estonia, when he said young people are scandalised when they see the Church fail to condemn abuse clearly.

“The young people are scandalised by the hypocrisy of adults, they are scandalised by wars, they are scandalised by the lack of coherence, they are scandalised by corruption, and corruption is where what you underlined – sexual abuse – comes in,” the Pope responded.

Whatever the statistics say about rates of clerical abuse, the Pope said, “if there is even just one priest who abuses a boy or a girl, it is monstrous, because that man was chosen by God to lead that child to heaven.”

The fact that child abuse occurs in many environments does not in any way lessen the scandal, he said.

But it is not true that the Church has done nothing “to clean up”, Pope Francis told reporters. If one looks at the Pennsylvania grand jury report released in August or other similar studies, he said, it is clear that the majority of cases occurred decades ago “because the Church realised that it had to battle it in a different way”.

To understand what happened in the past, he said, one must remember how abuse was handled then.

"The past should be interpreted using the hermeneutic of the age," Pope Francis said. People's "moral consciousness" develops over time, he said, pointing to the death penalty as an example.

But, he said, "look at the example of Pennsylvania. Look at the proportions and you will see that when the church began to understand, it did all it could."

Pope Francis did not mention by name Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former nuncio to the United States, who claimed that Pope Francis knew of and ignored the sexual misconduct of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. And the journalists’ question about Archbishop Viganò was never asked because the Pope insisted that most of the questions be related directly to his trip to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

But the Pontiff did say that “when there was that famous statement from an ex-nuncio, bishops from the whole world wrote to tell me they were close to me and praying for me.”

FULL STORY

Pope discusses sex abuse, corruption, China (The Tablet)

RELATED COVERAGE

Francis defends response to clergy abuse, says church has 'spared no effort' (NCR Online)

Pope calls PA grand jury report an “example” of Church progress (Crux)

Bishops to investigate 4 dioceses after Pope nixes Vatican McCarrick probe (Crux)

On plane, pope discusses sex abuse, corruption of cover-up, China pact (CNS

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