Pope Declares 'Zero Tolerance' for Sexual Abuse in Catholic Church. 3/1/2017

Published by THEGUARDIAN

December letter becomes public in which Francis denounces
‘atrocities’ by clergy as ‘a sin that shames us’ and must be rooted out

Pope Francis called for the church to renew its commitment
to preventing ‘these atrocities in our midst’.

 

Pope Francis called for the church to renew its commitment
to preventing ‘these atrocities in our midst’.

Pope Francis has told bishops around the world they must
adhere to a policy of “zero tolerance” for clergy who sexually abuse children
and begged forgiveness for “a sin that shames us”.

In a letter sent on 28 December but released by the Vatican
only on Monday, Francis said: “I would like us to renew our complete commitment
to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst.”

Since his election in 2013, Francis has taken some steps to
root out sexual abuse in the church and to put in place practices to protect
children. But victims’ groups say he has not done enough, particularly to hold
to account bishops who tolerated sexual abuse or covered it up.

“[The church] recognises the sins of some of her members:
the sufferings, the experiences and the pain of minors who were abused sexually
by priests. It is a sin that shames us,” Francis wrote in the letter.

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“I would like us to renew our complete commitment to
ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst. Let us
find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect in every
way the lives of our children, so that such crimes may never be repeated. In
this area, let us adhere, clearly and faithfully, to ‘zero tolerance’.

The comments, included in a letter about the plight of
vulnerable children in general, were some of his most comprehensive on abuse.

Anne Barrett-Doyle, founder of the US-based research and
monitoring group BishopAccountablity.org, said in an email that the pope’s
words were little more than rhetoric.

“This pope keeps proclaiming zero tolerance but doesn’t
enact it. He knows full well that church law contains no zero tolerance
provision. Zero tolerance is mere rhetoric. The sad fact is that the church
still has not changed its system to make zero tolerance a binding reality,” she
said.

She said that while it existed in the United States, it is
“still optional in the global Catholic church”.

Francis, who has met victims of sexual abuse several times,
both in the Vatican and on some of his foreign trips, said: “We join in the
pain of the victims and weep for this sin – the sin of what happened, the sin
of failing to help, the sin of covering up and denial, the sin of the abuse of
power.”

In 2015 Francis ordered the trial and defrocking of a Polish
archbishop accused of paying for sex with minors in the Dominican Republic.

The year before he set up a Vatican commission, including
some victims, to advise local churches on how to prevent abuse. But some
members have complained about the slow pace of change in the Vatican.

Francis also approved the establishment of a Vatican
tribunal to judge bishops accused of covering up sexual abuse or failing to
prevent it. But the proposal has so far stalled.

 

Church sexual abuse broke into the open in 2002 when it was
discovered that US bishops moved abusers from parish to parish instead of
defrocking them. Similar scandals were later discovered around the world and
tens of millions of dollars have been paid in compensation.