Pope Francis Issues Response to Pennsylvania's Catholic Church Sex Abuse Document

The Vatican criticized “predator priests.”

Pope Francis, the supreme head of Roman Catholic Church, wrote a letter a week after a 877-page report was released by a grand jury in Pennsylvania concerning sexual abuses committed by Catholic clergy. The letter condemned in no uncertain terms the alleged misconduct of priests. It also asked for forgiveness. The authors of the report went through responses made by 1,000 identifiable minors. About 300 American priests took part in this ghastly crime. It is believed that the number of victims who came forward are much smaller than the actual figure. Thousands more are believed to have suffered. There was ample evidence that the church indulged in active cover-ups, with several cases too old for the perpetrators to be prosecuted.

The Vatican has made its position clear: it is now on the side of the victims and against what it termed the "predator" priests. In his letter, the pope mentioned the "heart-wrenching pain" of victims whose cries were unheard or silenced. The pontiff mentioned that the quantity of crime increased due to church members complicit in such heinous acts. The report explained in detail how the church apparatus helped and then hid the abuse, frequently responding to multiple complaints with superficial investigations. The alleged abusers were treated in a lenient manner.

The report mentioned that an overwhelming number of victims were boys, with girls making a small percentage. Most victims were pre-pubescent when the attack happened. A few teens were violated as well. Many were manipulated through pornography or alcohol. Rapes occurred in all possible forms. When church authorities were informed of the incidents, the allegations were ignored by those who wanted to protect the institution above all costs. They thus protected the abusers and not the victims.

This response by the pope was not his initial reaction when the allegations surfaced, Francis at first stayed mum and even permitted the spokesperson of the Holy See to formulate the public response of the Catholic Church. The church then expressed "shame and sorrow" concerning the morally reprehensible and criminal abuses uncovered. Greg Burke, the concerned Vatican spokesperson, noted that the grand jury was unable to find cases post-2002. He admitted that events later than that were covered up and both abusers and those complicit in the abuse must be prosecuted.

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