Pope Francis has expressed “shame and repentance” over the Catholic Church’s failure to act swiftly on alleged sexual abuse carried out by religious leaders spanning decades.
In a particularly blunt letter released Monday, the pope acknowledged the “suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons.”
The pontiff’s lengthy statement came less than one week after a grand jury report implicated more than 300 “predator priests” who over the past 70 years allegedly carried out sexual abuse against more than 1,000 children in Pennsylvania.
The stunning Pennsylvania Supreme Court report, which followed a two-year investigation, revealed allegations of rape, forced abortions and masked sexual abuse.
“Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others,” Pope Francis wrote. “An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.”
Pope Francis’ bold letter in the wake of the bombshell report comes as Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., is facing mounting pressure over his apparent role in covering up sexual abuses during his time as the bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006. His name appears in the 1,300-page report 170 times.
Cardinal Wuerl is mentioned throughout the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report as helping to cover up the predatory behavior of priests and indeed to help them go parish to parish. This week he made numerous comments defending himself that are contradicted in the report. https://t.co/nmLKI49e2w
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) August 19, 2018
Following the release of the grand jury report, Cardinal Wuerl abruptly cancelled his scheduled trip to Dublin, Ireland, for the Church’s annual World Meeting of Families, which will take place August 21-26.
In his letter, Pope Francis vowed “zero tolerance” moving forward for those who carry out such abuses, calling for systems to be established to hold “all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable.”
Though most of the abuses, the pope claimed, “belong to the past,” he acknowledged the importance of actively condemning them because “these wounds never disappear.”
“May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse, our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them,” Pope Francis wrote.