Meeting with victims of clerical sexual abuse on Monday, Pope Francis issued strong condemnation of the abuse crisis that has shaken the Roman Catholic Church for years. He compared abusive priests to "a sacrilegious cult."
The Pope met with six victims from three countries, Ireland, Britain and Germany. Like other popes before him, Francis has faced criticism with regard to this issue. Some detractors said that this meeting was merely a publicity stunt.
Pope Francis led the victims in a private Mass at a Vatican chapel and offered a homily that strongly condemned the abuse scandal that first surfaced under John Paul II. He met with each victim on an individual basis.
In the homily Francis said, “Before God and his people, I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness. I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves.”
U.S. News and World Reports notes, "Over the past 10 years, according to the Vatican, 3,420 credible accusations of sexual abuse by priests have been filed. 824 clerics have been defrocked. Pope Benedict, Pope Francis' predecessor, met several times with abuse victims starting in 2008."
But speaking as the leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Mary Caplan said, "Over the past 2000 years, two popes have met with about two dozen clergy sex abuse victims. Very little has changed. A dozen popes could meet with 100 victims, and very little will change. These meetings are public relation coups for the Vatican and a distracting placebo for others." [NBC News]
Robin Doll, 44, a small-business owner from Orlando on vacation in Rome, said "I would have liked to see the pope meet with an American just because the abuse scandals were so pronounced in the U.S., but I still think it's important. When the pope focuses on this I think it sends a signal to the whole church that things are going to change." [USAToday]