Pope Francis tells Curia: ‘Spare no effort’ in bringing abusers to justice

Francis strongly condemned clerical sex abuse in his annual Christmas speech to the Roman Curia, calling on abusers to “convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice…”

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, greets Pope Francis at the beginning of his annual pre-Christmas meeting with officials of the Roman Curia and cardinals present in Rome. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Vatican City, Dec 21, 2018 / 05:45 am (CNA).- Pope Francis strongly condemned clerical sex abuse in his annual Christmas speech to the Roman Curia Friday, promising that the Church leadership will never again cover-up abuse or treat such cases lightly.

“Let it be clear that before these abominations the Church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes. The Church will never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case,” Pope Francis said in Vatican’s City’s Apostolic Palace Dec. 21.

“It is undeniable that some in the past, out of irresponsibility, disbelief, lack of training, inexperience, or spiritual and human short-sightedness, treated many cases without the seriousness and promptness  that was due. That must never happen again. This is the choice and the decision of the whole Church,” he continued.

The 40 minute address to the cardinals and members of the Roman Curia largely focused on the “scourges of abuse and infidelity.”

The pope delivered a decisive message to those “consecrated men, ‘the Lord’s anointed’, who today “abuse the vulnerable, taking advantage of their position and their power of persuasion.”

With his hands visibly shaking as he read from his prepared text, the pope addressed abusive clergy directly, telling them to prepare to face justice.

“To those who abuse minors I would say this: convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice,” Pope Francis said.

“Remember the words of Christ: ‘Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of scandals! For it is necessary that scandals come, but woe to the man by whom the scandal comes!’” he added.

The pope chose to focus his Christmas address on the struggles the Church faced in the past “turbulent” year. “This year, in our turbulent world, the barque of the Church has experienced, and continues to experience, moments of difficulty, and has been buffeted by strong winds and tempests,” he said.

Francis outlined what he perceived to be the different reactions from Catholics around the world in response to the sex abuse crisis.

“Many have found themselves asking the Master, who seems to be sleeping: ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ Others, disheartened by news reports, have begun to lose trust and to abandon her. Still others, out of fear, personal interest or other aims, have sought to attack her and aggravate her wounds. Whereas others do not conceal their glee at seeing her hard hit,” he said.

“Many, many others, however, continue to cling to her, in the certainty that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against her,’” he added.

The pope also thanked the journalists who shed light on the cases of sex abuse within the Church, “who were honest and objective and sought to unmask these predators and to make their victims’ voices heard.”

“Even if it were to involve a single case of abuse (something itself monstrous), the Church asks that people not be silent but bring it objectively to light, since the greater scandal in this matter is that of cloaking the truth,” Francis added.

He urged, “Please, let us help Holy Mother Church in her difficult task of recognizing real from false cases, accusations from slander, grievances from insinuations, gossip from defamation.”

In a possible indication of the scope of the Vatican’s February meeting to address the abuse of minors and other vulnerable adults, the pope said that the Church must confront the root causes of sexual abuse, both within itself and in the wider society.

“The Church will not be limited to healing her own wounds, but will seek to deal squarely with this evil that causes the slow death of so many persons, on the moral, psychological and human levels.”

“An effort will be made to make past mistakes opportunities for eliminating this scourge, not only from the body of the Church but also from that of society. For if this grave tragedy has involved some consecrated ministers, we can ask how deeply rooted it may be in our societies and in our families,” he commented.

At the February meeting, the heads of all of the international bishops’ conferences “will question, with the help of experts, how best to protect children, to avoid these tragedies, to bring healing and restoration to the victims, and to improve the training imparted in seminaries,” Francis said.

Pope Francis said he wanted to “stress the importance of a growing awareness that should lead to a duty of vigilance and protection on the part of those entrusted with governance in the structures of ecclesial and consecrated life.”

“The strength of any institution does not depend on its being composed of men and women who are perfect (something impossible!), but on its willingness to be constantly purified, on its capacity to acknowledge humbly its errors and correct them; and on its ability to get up after falling down,” he said.

The pope used the Biblical story of King David to analyze the sins of “abuses of power and conscience and sexual abuse.”

“Today too, there are many Davids who, without batting an eye, enter into the web of corruption and betray God, his commandments, their own vocation, the Church, the people of God and the trust of little ones and their families. Often behind their boundless amiability, impeccable activity and angelic faces, they shamelessly conceal a vicious wolf ready to devour innocent souls,” he said.

“Let us all remember that only David’s encounter with the prophet Nathan made him understand the seriousness of his sin. Today we need new Nathans to help so many Davids rouse themselves from a hypocritical and perverse life,” he added.

Amid the scandals, the pope saw as “a genuine cause for joy” Catholics who faithfully live lives of charity in their vocations, including “the great number of the faithful who each year receive baptism and thus renew the youth of the Church as a fruitful mother, and the many of her children who come home and re-embrace the Christian faith and life. All those families and parents who take their faith seriously and daily pass it on to their children by the joy of their love”

“Another genuine cause for joy is the great number of consecrated men and women, bishops and priests, who daily live their calling in fidelity, silence, holiness and self-denial,” Francis said.

“I think especially of the many parish priests who daily offer good example to the people of God, priests close to families, who know everyone’s name and live lives of simplicity, faith, zeal, holiness and charity. They are overlooked by the mass media, but were it not for them, darkness would reign,” he added.

In his remarks, the pope connected the coming of Christ at Christmas to the final judgement, when Christ will return in glory.
“Each year, Christmas gives us the certainty that God’s light will continue to shine, despite our human misery. It gives us the certainty that the Church will emerge from these tribulations all the more beautiful, purified and radiant,” he said.

“All the sins and failings and evil committed by some children of the Church will never be able to mar the beauty of her face. Indeed, they are even a sure proof that her strength does not depend on us but ultimately on Christ Jesus, the Saviour of the world and the light of the universe, who loves her and gave his life for her,” he continued.

Pope Francis concluded, “Christmas gives us the certainty that the grave evils perpetrated by some will never be able to cloud all the good that the Church freely accomplishes in the world. Christmas gives the certainty that the true strength of the Church and of our daily efforts, so often hidden, rests in the Holy Spirit, who guides and protects her in every age, turning even sins into opportunities for forgiveness, failures into opportunities for renewal, and evil into an opportunity for purification and triumph.”

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  1. It sure looks like the Pope is trying very hard to cover up the homosexualization of the Vatican that he has led, by trying to divert attention and pretend the homosexuals have not taken over, instead its all about child abuse. Very clever, sneakiest Pope of all time.

  2. It is not “the Church” that is being “hit hard” by the fallout of the McCarrick revelations, but those who use the Church as a facade for their own predations. The truth will set us free–which is precisely why, even now, Jorge Bergoglio is seeking to subvert it.

    • There are many frauds masquerading as bishops and priests.
      Can be an easy life if you work it right.
      Ask Ted McCarrick, he’s still doing it.

  3. Why is he just now condemning the abuse? Why did it take him a year to say this? I fear it is to little too late. The root problem here is the sin of homosexuality. Let us not forget how God dealt with Sodom and Gomorrah!

  4. How about covering up the abuse of minors? What he ought to do is order a thorough investigation of the Viganó allegations which include him. The rest is nice talk.

  5. This pontificate is engineered by the arch sex abuser McCarrick and the sex abuse coverup “Cardinal” Danneels of Belgium (who was retired in disgrace in 2010 for covering up the homosexual incest of Bishop Vangelhuwe (standing against the Bishop’s own family seeking justice), a criminal restored to power by Pope Francis in 2013, and standing with him on the balcony on Day 1 at St. Peter’s.

    “Get ready for divine judgement?” These men profane the Church with every word they speak and every act they make.

    • The list of abusers that were rehabilitated by Pope Francis is astounding
      1) McCarrick – abuser of seminarians and young children. Rehabilitated by Pope Francis
      2) Daneels – tried to pressure someone not to report abuse – Rehabilitated by Pope Francis – in fact called to stand by Pope Francis on the balcony after his election
      3) Maradiaga – His seminaries are in revolt after 50 seminarians staged a protest about the homosexualizton of their seminaries. Mardiaga’s right hand man is out because of financial and sexual irregularities. Pope Francis put Maradiaga on his group of closest advisors.
      4) Errazuriz – Chile may prosecute him for covering up child abuse. Pope Francis put him on his closest group of advisors.
      5) Inzoli – abused many children, Pope Francis reversed his sentence at the CDF to “go pray in a monastery”

  6. The only way out of this crisis that doesn’t involve Pope Francis resigning is if makes a complete 360 degree heel face turn from the current direction he is trying to take the Church. It would be preferable but I do think he is humble enough.

  7. McCarrick is still archbishop. No charges have been brought against him. He still lives comfortably on the pew sitters dime.
    This is entirely the will of the pope.
    It is entirely on his shoulders.

  8. Rather than lecturing, how about leading by example? We are inundated by words year after year but very little corresponding action. By its own annual audit the Dallas accord is by any measure a pitiful failure even in its own limited scope. Compliance is strictly voluntary and over 60% of diocese are nowhere close to compliance. Some made an effort and then dropped it. Some refused to ever try. Yet the bishops keep claiming resounding success of that charter (more words). The Vatican and most bishops keep trying to limit the discussion and regulation on “abuse fo children and vulnerable adults.” By which they mean the youngest children and totally incapacitated adults; NOT older teens, seminarians, parishioners, superior/subordinate adults, etc.

    Leading by example would be more powerful statement than any more words. Start by accepting the criticism of Vigano as legitimate accusation of complicity in sex abuse cover-up and launch a third party investigation into every nook and cranny of the allegations to prove one way or the other. Very visible, transparent and using himself and his close cardinal associates as a test case to prove his purpose and commitment. Second, launch Vatican directed investigations using local and international lay experts (law enforcement, attorneys, financial auditors) into the top suspects in each country plagued with this outrage. That is, start from the top (cardinals, especially those with influence in the Vatican) and work its way down to bishops. And it must root out ANY form of sex abuse and impropriety: homosexual, subordinate adults (i.e., pretty much every one), teens, and children. I wager after a few of the top cases are driven through, exposed in detail and consequences applied that the message of no tolerance would be heard loud and clear and the culprits would start abandoning ship before the axe falls on them, too. And those with such inclinations would be much less likely to seek the cover of secrecy by joining the clergy.

    Until this happens more cascades of words without action will be like a spring mist instead of of a cleansing flood.

  9. Francis told them to “spare no effort”. Did he say that to a pristine group? Perhaps not. The Roman Curia is a mystery to me. It appears to be staffed by several levels of clergy who report directly to the Pope. Francis may not find all the bad “guys” and he is not doing reverse engineering to the source. He wants to secure the rear door and keep the front door open and unattended.

    How can any lay person be comfortable with that? If I was a member of the Curia I may need to know if my buddies are straight.

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