Pope Francis has acknowledged the widespread sexual abuse committed by Christian priests in the US Catholic Church and warned that such crimes should never be repeated.
In remarks delivered to Catholic bishops at Saint Matthews Cathedral in Washington on Wednesday, the pope praised their response to the sex abuse scandal while failing to mention the words “sexual abuse.”
A group representing victims of priest sexual abuse blasted the pope’s remarks and said his brief remarks were a setback for justice and healing.
Francis, 78, referred to the crisis indirectly, telling the bishops he was “conscious of the courage with which you have faced difficult moments in the recent history of the Church in this country without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice.”
“What sacrifice?” said Barbara Blaine of Chicago, the president of Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests.
“His remarks today confirm what we’ve long said and suspected: this pope, like his predecessors, is doing and will do little if anything to bring real reform to this continuing crisis,” Blaine said.
Victims said those comments grossly misrepresent how the church has dealt with the scandal, which it succeeded in covering up for decades.
John Salveson, a sex abuse victim in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, said the pope’s comments were “both insulting and hurtful to survivors of clergy abuse.”
“In reality, the Roman Catholic Church in America has treated clergy sex abuse victims as adversaries and enemies for decades,” said Salveson, president of the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse.
Approximately 6,900 US Roman Catholic priests were accused of sexual abuse with at least 16,900 young victims between 1950 and 2011, according to data from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The US Catholic Church is facing severe financial difficulties over settlement payments to victims and other costs totaling around $3 billion, forcing it to sell off assets and cut costs.
A dozen dioceses have filed for bankruptcy in the face of extensive lawsuits, claiming they do not have the resources to pay them.
David Clohessy, head of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who himself was sexually assaulted by a priest as a child, said the pope’s speech was “dreadfully disappointing.”
“Bishops have been cowardly, not courageous, and still are,” Clohessy said.
The leader of the Catholic Church arrived in the US for the first time on Tuesday and was greeted by US President Barack Obama, along with his wife and daughters, as well as Vice President Joe Biden and his family at the Joint Base Andrews military facility outside of Washington, an unprecedented welcome for a foreign dignitary.
By Press TV