The Vatican has expressed “shame and sorrow” over the sexual abuse of at least 1,000 children by more than 300 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania, and has said Pope Francis is “on the side” of survivors.
The Guardian reports that in response to the publication on Tuesday of a detailed grand jury investigation into abuse in the state over a 70-year period, the pope’s spokesman issued a statement on Thursday saying “the Holy See condemns unequivocally the sexual abuse of minors”.
“There are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow,” said the statement issued in the name of Greg Burke, the director of the Holy See press office.
“The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible. Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith. The church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur.”
Burke’s statement drew attention to the report’s finding that very few cases of abuse occurred after 2002. This was “consistent with previous studies showing that Catholic church reforms in the United States drastically reduced the incidence of clergy child abuse”, he said.
“The Holy See encourages continued reform and vigilance at all levels of the Catholic church, to help ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults from harm. The Holy See also wants to underscore the need to comply with the civil law, including mandatory child abuse reporting requirements.
“The Holy Father understands well how much these crimes can shake the faith and the spirit of believers, and reiterates the call to make every effort to create a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the church and in all of society.
“Victims should know that the pope is on their side. Those who have suffered are his priority, and the church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent.”