Pope asks forgiveness for priest sex abuse

The Telegram and The Associated Press
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Vows no going back in fight to protect children

Pope Francis asked for forgiveness today from people who were sexually abused by priests, and vowed that there will be no going back in the church’s fight to protect children.

Pope Francis — Photo by The Associated Press

The Pope’s comments don’t offer a concrete plan for action, said Mount Pearl lawyer Geoff Budden, who represented numerous clients in claims against the Roman Catholic lay order Christian Brothers, but also has some clients who have claims of abuse against priests.

“Basically, it’s positive as far as it goes, but consists of platitudes and general comments and unspecified calls for action in the indeterminate future,” Budden told The Telegram today.

Francis made the off-the-cuff remarks after coming under criticism from victims’ advocacy groups for a perceived lack of attention to the problem and ongoing demands that he sanction bishops who covered up for pedophiles.

In his remarks to members of the International Catholic Child Bureau, a French Catholic network of organizations that protects children’s rights, Francis said he felt “called to take it upon myself” and “ask forgiveness” for the evil that some priests had committed against children.

“The church is aware of this damage,” he was quoted as saying by Vatican Radio. “We don’t want to take a step back in dealing with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, I think we must be even stronger! You don’t play around with the lives of children.”

Last month, Francis named the initial members of a commission to advise him on best practices to combat sexual abuse in the church. Half of them are women and one was assaulted by a priest as a child.

The Vatican has said the members will draft the statutes of the commission and would look into the legal “duties and responsibilities” of church personnel, a suggestion that they might take up the critical question of disciplining complicit bishops. Church law provides for sanctions if a bishop is negligent in carrying out his duties, but to date no bishop has been disciplined for protecting an abuser.

Francis named the commission members after coming under fire for taking no action since the commission itself was announced in December. Victims groups also have been irked that he hasn’t met with survivors and recently told a newspaper that the church had been unfairly attacked for its abuse record.

Organizations: Christian Brothers, International Catholic Child Bureau

Geographic location: Mount Pearl, Vatican

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  • Glenn Stockley
    April 11, 2014 - 12:21

    What a cop out from an ultimate cop-outer.....he should be instructing his bishops to aid in the prosecution of these most vile criminals who committed these offences and follow the words that his lord jesus said in the book of luke about child abusers.....he remains, as all of his predecessors, the biggest hypocrite in christendom....