The Pope says the credibility of church is on the line and calls for “stepped-up measures to protect minors”.
His announcement was described by victims’ advocates as merely more talk. “Once again … a top Catholic official says he’s asking another top Catholic official to take action about paedophile priests and complicit bishops,” said Barbara Dorris, an official from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a US-based organisation.
Victims of clergy abuse called for quick action from Francis shortly after he was elected pope last month. He had been described as being slow to act against sex abuse while he was head of the church in Argentina.
The clergy sex abuse scandals have drained morale and finances from the church, driving countless Catholics away, in many countries. Some dioceses have had to close parishes and take other drastic actions after paying out millions for counselling and other compensation to victims in cases settled in and out of court.
Dr Rebecca Rist, a papal historian from the Reading University, said: “The papacy has always taken a strong line on the importance of the purity of life of its clergy. In the 11th Century, the medieval papacy took stringent measures against the abuses of ‘simony’ – the buying and selling of ecclesiastical office – and ‘nicolaism’ – clerical concubinage.
“Pope Francis is signalling that he regards clerical sexual abuse as the modern day scourge of the Church.”
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