The Catholic Church has grown in its understanding of the horror of clerical sexual abuse and of the “corruption” of covering it up, Pope Francis said.
Returning to Rome from a trip to the Baltic nations, Pope Francis was asked about his remarks to young people in Tallinn, Estonia, when he said young people are scandalised when they see the Church fail to condemn abuse clearly.
“The young people are scandalised by the hypocrisy of adults, they are scandalised by wars, they are scandalised by the lack of coherence, they are scandalised by corruption, and corruption is where what you underlined – sexual abuse – comes in,” the pope responded.
Whatever the statistics say about rates of clerical abuse, the pope said, “if there is even just one priest who abuses a boy or a girl, it is monstrous, because that man was chosen by God to lead that child to heaven.”
The fact that child abuse occurs in many environments does not in any way lessen the scandal, he said.
But it is not true that the Church has done nothing “to clean up,” Pope Francis told reporters. If one looks at the Pennsylvania grand jury report released in August or other similar studies, he said, it is clear that the majority of cases occurred decades ago “because the Church realised that it had to battle it in a different way.”
“In olden times these things were covered up – but they were covered up also in families, when an uncle abused his niece, or a father raped his child; it was covered up because it was a very great shame,” Pope Francis said. “That was how people thought in the last century.”
Picture: Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Tallinn, Estonia, to Rome. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).