Pope Francis laments sexual abuse of minors among clerics
The Head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has lamented the spate of sexual abuse of minors by clerics and the inability of the church leaders to take necessary actions against it, describing it as the greatest challenge of the church today.
Agency France-Presse reported that the 86-year-old Argentine calls for more help for victims of clerical abuse in developing countries Friday as he welcomed new members of his commission to protect children, which has been beset by problems.
The pontiff set up the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in 2014 in response to the scandal of paedophile priests discrediting the global Catholic Church, to which he promised to take a zero-tolerance approach.
Pope Francis slammed the “poor handling” by leaders of the Catholic Church of what he called the “terrible scourge” of abuse on Friday.
“Do not become discouraged when it seems that little is changing for the better. Persevere and keep moving forwards!” he told the new members of the commission.
“You are using your skills and expertise to help repair a terrible scourge in the Church by working to assist the various particular churches” around the world, he said.
He pointed out particular inequalities in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where victims do not benefit from the same help, and where training programmes for clergy are not enough..
“It is not right that the most prosperous areas of the world should have well-trained and well-funded safeguarding programmes, where victims and their families are respected,” said Francis.
“While in other parts of the world, they suffer in silence, perhaps rejected or stigmatised when they try to come forward to tell of the abuse they have suffered.”
The Pontifical Commission has been hit by a series of problems since its creation, with two abuse survivors resigning from the organisation in 2017, while in March its most influential member, Hans Zollner, also quit.
Zollner, the last remaining founding member, accused the commission of urgent issues related to compliance, accountability and transparency.
Francis has tried to strengthen the abuse commission by making it part of the Vatican office that processes clergy sex abuse cases, while it struck a new deal in April with the Vatican department responsible for evangelisation.
The head of the so-called Dicastery for Evangelisation, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, admitted at the time that communicating laws and guidelines imposed by the Vatican to churches in other regions was a challenge.
“The sexual abuse of minors by clergy and its poor handling by Church leaders has been one of the greatest challenges for the Church in our time,” the pope said on Friday.
“Church leaders, who share a sense of shame for their failure to act, have suffered a loss of credibility, and our very ability to preach the Gospel has been damaged,” he said.