Pope vows to end cover-up of clergy sex abuse
Pope Francis declared yesterday, as he arrived in Ireland, that he shares the outrage of rank-and-file Catholics over the cover-up of the "repugnant crimes" of priests who raped and molested children, and vowed that he was committed to ending the "scourge."
Seeking to respond to a global outcry over sex abuse by priests, Francis cited measures taken by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, to respond to the crisis.
But Benedict never acknowledged the Vatican's role in fuelling a culture of cover-up, and Francis provided no new details of any measures he would take to sanction bishops who fail to protect their flocks from predator priests.
"The failure of ecclesial authorities bishops, religious superiors, priests and others to adequately address these repugnant crimes has rightly given rise to outrage, and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community. I myself share these sentiments," the pope said in a speech to government officials and civil authorities at Dublin Castle.
Francis said he was committed to ridding the church of this "scourge" no matter the moral cost or amount of suffering.
Francis' trip to Ireland, the first by a pope in 39 years, has been overshadowed by renewed outrage over the Catholic Church's systemic failures to protect children, following revelations of sexual misconduct and cover-up in the US church hierarchy, a growing crisis in Chile and the prosecutions of top clerics in Australia and France.
Francis was expected to meet with abuse victims during his 36-hour visit to Ireland. But neither his words at the start of his visit nor a new meeting with victims is likely to assuage demands for heads to roll over the sex abuse scandal.
"Disappointing, nothing new," was the reaction from Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins, a former member of Francis' sex abuse advisory panel who quit last year in frustration.
Deeply Catholic Ireland has had one of the world's worst records of clergy sex abuse, crimes that were revealed to its 4.8 million people over the past decade by a series of government-mandated enquiries.
The reviews concluded that thousands of children were raped and molested by priests or physically abused in church-run schools and bishops worked for years to hide those crimes.
After the Irish church atoned for its past and enacted tough new norms to fight abuse, it had been looking to the first visit by a pope in 40 years to show a different, more caring church that understands the problems of ordinary Catholic families.