As the Vatican wrapped up its four-day summit addressing the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy members, Pope Francis offered some powerful words on how the institution plans to tackle the widespread issue moving forward. Following the summit’s closing Mass Sunday, the pope promised an “all-out battle” against the abuse of minors, citing eight objectives he hopes will “turn this evil into an opportunity for purification.”
“We need to recognize with humility and courage that we stand face to face with the mystery of evil, which strikes most violently against the most vulnerable, for they are an image of Jesus,” Pope Francis said, as reported by the Catholic News Agency.
“For this reason, the Church has now become increasingly aware of the need not only to curb the gravest cases of abuse by disciplinary measures and civil and canonical processes, but also to decisively confront the phenomenon both inside and outside the Church,” he said.
Pope Francis stressed the need to not only acknowledge the worldwide problem of child sexual abuse — which tragically affects all cultures and religious groups, occurring primarily within the context of the family — but to pinpoint the root cause. He urged listeners to see this disturbing phenomenon as “the present-day manifestation of the spirit of evil,” later noting that clergymen who engage in this “brazen, aggressive and destructive evil” allow themselves to become “tools of Satan.”
The pope then outlined eight guidelines he based on the World Health Organization’s “Seven Strategies for Ending Violence against Children” that will assist the Church in “developing her legislation” on the issues.
CNA reporter Courtney Grogan summarizes the eight points as follows:
1. A “change of mentality” to focus on protecting children rather than “protecting the institution.”
2. A recognition of the “impeccable seriousness” of these “sins and crimes of consecrated persons.”
3. A genuine purification beginning with “self-accusation.”
4. Positive formation of candidates for the priesthood in the virtue of chastity.
5. Strengthening and reviewing of guidelines by episcopal conferences, reaffirming the need for “rules.”
6. The accompaniment of those who have been abused with an emphasis on listening.
7. Ensure that seminarians and clergy are not enslaved to an addiction to pornography.
8. Combat sexual tourism around the world.
“The Church’s aim will thus be to hear, watch over, protect and care for abused, exploited and forgotten children, wherever they are,” Pope Francis said.
He noted that to achieve that aim, the Church must “rise above” the politics and “various interests” that “often exploit” and diminish the suffering of the abused. Instead, the focus must be on helping victims heal and safeguarding against abuse, no matter the cost. Instead of worrying about how the actions of evil individuals make the Church look, righteousness and truth should always be the primary concerns of Church leaders.
The pope added that “the brutality of this worldwide phenomenon becomes all the more grave and scandalous in the Church, for it is utterly incompatible with her moral authority and ethical credibility.”
He also doubled-down on the modern “scourge of pornography” and its clear connection to sexual abuse and exploitation.
Pope Francis stressed the need to “encourage countries and authorities to apply every measure needed to contain those websites that threaten human dignity,” Pope Francis said. He added that Church’s policy against “the acquisition, possession or distribution by a cleric of pornographic images of minors” should be modified to change the definition of a “minor” to youths older than the current age of 14.
After thanking faithful clerics who live out their vow of celibacy with great piety, the pope concluded his remarks with “a heartfelt appeal for an all-out battle against the abuse of minors both sexually and in other areas, on the part of all authorities and individuals, for we are dealing with abominable crimes that must be erased from the face of the earth.”
(H/T: Catholic News Agency)