POPE FRANCIS has urged perpetrators of child abuse in the Roman Catholic Church to “convert and hand yourself over to human justice”, in a speech condemning all forms of abuse.
The Pope was delivering his annual Christmas message, last month, to the Roman Curia, a group of administrative institutions of the RC Church. The Pope has made the reform of the Curia a priority of his pontificate (News, 23 December 2014).
In a wide-ranging address, the Pope condemned “grave scandals” in his Church, including “the infidelity of those who betray their vocation, their sworn promise, their mission, and their consecration to God and the Church”, and who “stab their brothers and sisters in the back”.
On institutional abuse, he gave the example of King David in the books of Samuel, who, he said, committed a “triple sin, three grave abuses at once: ‘sexual abuse, abuse of power, and abuse of conscience’”.
“Today, too, there are many Davids, who, without batting an eye, enter into the web of corruption and betray God, his commandments, their own vocation, the Church, the people of God, and the trust of little ones and their families. Often, behind their boundless amiability, impeccable activity, and angelic faces, they shamelessly conceal a vicious wolf ready to devour innocent souls.”
These ministers, he said, took advantage “of their position and their power of persuasion. They perform abominable acts yet continue to exercise their ministry as if nothing had happened. They have no fear of God or his judgement, but only of being found out and unmasked.”
Pope Francis vowed that the Church would “never again” cover up, or fail to act on evidence of any form of abuse within its institution: “Let it be clear that before these abominations the Church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes. The Church will never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case.
“It is undeniable that some in the past, out of irresponsibility, disbelief, lack of training, inexperience — we need to judge the past with a hermeneutics of the past — or spiritual and human myopia, treated many cases without the seriousness and promptness that was due. That must never happen again. This is the choice and the decision of the whole Church.”
He also dismissed the suggestion that the media had focused only on the RC Church, and gave “heartfelt thanks” to all media professionals “who were honest and objective and sought to unmask these predators and to make their victims’ voices heard.
“Even if it were to involve a single case of abuse (something itself monstrous), the Church asks that people not be silent but bring it objectively to light, since the greater scandal in this matter is that of cloaking the truth.”
Press, page 26.