Pope Francis released a letter to Roman Catholics around the world Monday condemning sexual abuse by Church officials and efforts to hide it. He demanded responsibility be taken but he did not say how he might punish those involved. He also did not propose a plan to stop such wrongdoing.
Francis asked forgiveness for the suffering of victims. He said all Catholics must be involved in the effort to stop abuse and attempts to hide abuse. He denounced the clergy culture that has been blamed for the crisis. Church leaders are accused of being more concerned with their self-image than the safety of children.
“With shame and repentance,” Francis wrote, we admit “we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives.”
He added, “We showed no care for the little ones.”
The Vatican released the three-page letter before Francis' trip to Ireland Saturday.
Francis’ letter was a reaction to American and Irish pressure that he takes a strong position on the worldwide abuse crisis. That pressure increased after he traveled to Chile in January. There he dismissed victims' accusations of abuse as “calumny,” meaning lies to hurt someone’s image.
The pope's trip to Ireland was expected to deal with sex abuse in the Church. However, it became an even bigger issue following reports about one of the pope’s most trusted Church officials in the U.S.
Several people have accused the retired archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, of sexually abusing young people and adults in training to enter the clergy.
In addition, a Pennsylvania grand jury last week reported that at least 1,000 children were victims of about 300 clergymen over the past 70 years. The report said generations of high-level church officials repeatedly failed to take measures to protect children or punish suspects.
Also, investigations into sex abuse continue to grow in Chile. Chilean police have raided Church records to try to learn what it has known about its abusive clergy.
In his letter, which was released in seven languages, Francis spoke about the Pennsylvania report. But, Church officials said the message was meant for people around the world.
Francis wrote, “No effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up…”
Some supporters of victims said the letter was not enough.
Anne Barrett Doyle is with the research group Bishop Accountability. On Monday, the group released information on Irish clergy accused or found guilty of sex abuse.
“Mere words at this point deepen the insult and the pain,” she said of the pope’s letter. She also said, Francis should order the release of names of all priests who have been found guilty under Church law of abusing young people.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro praised the pope's letter. He also urged local Church officials to “cease their denials and deflections'' and accept the grand jury terms. Those include changing limits on the amount of time people have to bring a legal case against a person or a group.
I’m Caty Weaver.
Nicole Winfield reported this story for the Associated Press. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.
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Words in This Story
shame - n. a feeling of guilt, regret, or sadness that you have because you know you have done something wrong
repentance - n. the act of feeling or showing you are sorry for something bad or wrong that you did and that you want to do what is right
magnitude - n. the size, extent, or importance of something
gravity - n. a very serious quality or condition: the condition of being grave or serious
grand jury - n. (U.S. law) a group of people who look at the evidence against someone who has been accused of a crime in order to decide if there should be a trial
mere - adj. used to say that something or someone is small, unimportant, etc.
deflection - n.the act of changing or causing something to change direction