In the midst of sexual abuse crises in several countries and on the heels of Pennsylvania’s recent grand jury report detailing decades of abuse and cover ups within the Roman Catholic church, Pope Francis wrote an unprecedented letter Monday exhorting all Catholics across the globe to help root out “this culture of death”, vowing there would be no more cover ups.
> In a highly personal letter addressed to “the people of God,” Church language for all members, the pope appeared to be launching an appeal for all Catholics to face the crisis together and not let it tear the Church apart.
> The Catholic Church in the United States, Chile, Australia, and Ireland - where the pope is making a two-day visit this weekend - are reeling from crises involving sexual abuse of minors. Numerous surveys have pointed to plummeting confidence in the Church in those countries and elsewhere.
According to the Vatican, this is the first that a pope has written to the entire Catholic population, totaling some 1.2 billion people worldwide, on the subject of sexual abuse.
The pope acknowledged the suffering of children due to the sexual abuse of a “significant number of clerics and consecrated persons.”
> “We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death,” he said.
> Quoting a Gospel passage that says “If one member suffers, all suffer together,” Francis added:
> “(Those words) forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more 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.”
> “With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them,” Francis wrote.
The pope also vowed that going forward there will be no cover up attempts at any level of the church hierarchy:
> “Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated,” he said.
However, advocates for victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic church voiced disappointment:
> “More actions, less words,” said Anne Barrett-Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a U.S.-based resource center that tracks cases of clerical abuse worldwide.
> “He needs an effective discipline process for bishops and religious superiors who are known to have enabled abuse,” she said.