Pope Francis urged high-ranking church officials from around the globe gathered Thursday at the Vatican to “hear the cry of the little ones” who are victims of sexual abuse by priests, USA Today reports.
The pope cited the “scourge” of sexual abuse and said it was the responsibility of church leaders to “confront this evil afflicting the Church and humanity.”
Colombian Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez ended with a warning to clergy that they could all face prison if they let such crimes go unpunished.
The Pope offered a number of suggestions. One proposal called for protocols for Bishops to prevent predators from moving around parishes.
Last week, Pope Francis defrocked former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after Vatican officials found him guilty of sex crimes against minors and adults. McCarrick is the most senior Catholic official to be defrocked for such crimes. It sends a message. The 88-year-old was allegedly abusing young seminarians and it was a well-known secret.
This is all a start. Every success will become apparent in the follow-up or lack of it.
How does this happen?
A lot of these religious priests and nuns didn’t take the accusations seriously. Then there are the secrets meant to protect the institution at all costs.
The NY Times recently exposed a secret the Vatican kept for a very long time. It’s apparently common for priests to sexually abuse nuns. The Vatican has established a secret set of guidelines for dealing with clerics who fathered children.
Francis recently acknowledged the long-known but rarely addressed problem of nuns being sexually assaulted by priests.
Hopefully, the church is also addressing the problem of pedophilia. An active pedophile priest should be immediately turned over to police. If any priest shows signs, they should be expelled. Often predators conceal what they are and, at other times, they are great at feigning regret and begging forgiveness.
In December, the Pope told sex-abuse priests to turn themselves in. Don’t count on that happening. Predators rarely do that.