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The Pope is on the victims’ side

· Shame and sorrow for abuses in Pennsylvania ·

“Victims should know that the Pope is on their side. Those who have suffered are his priority, and the Church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent”. The Holy See offered a clear and distinct statement in response to the tragic circumstances that emerged in a report on the sexual abuse of minors in the dioceses of Pennsylvania, USA. Following a nearly 2-year grand jury investigation, the report documents cases involving 301 priests and more than 1,000 victims over a 70-year period in six of the eight dioceses of Pennsylvania.

In a statement issued on Thursday, 16 August, Greg Burke, Director of the Holy See Press Office, affirmed that “the Holy Father understands well how much these crimes can shake the faith and the spirit of believers and reiterates the call to make every effort to create a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the Church and in all of society”.

“There are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow”, the statement continued. “The Holy See treats with great seriousness the work of the Investigating Grand Jury of Pennsylvania and the lengthy Interim Report it has produced”. Moreover, the statement declared, “the Holy See condemns unequivocally the sexual abuse of minors”. In particular, “the abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible”, because “those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith. The Church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur”.

As “most of the discussion in the report concerns abuses before the early 2000s”, and “Catholic Church reforms in the United States drastically reduced the incidence of clergy child abuse”, the declaration emphasizes that “the Holy See encourages continued reform and vigilance at all levels of the Catholic Church, to help ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults from harm”. Moreover, the statement underscores “the need to comply with the civil law, including mandatory child abuse reporting requirements”.

The immediate and firm reaction of Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, President of the United States Bishops’ Conference (USCCB), spoke in terms of “sadness, anger, and shame”, and of the need for “not only spiritual conversion, but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past that are so evident in the recent report”. The Cardinal explained that the USCCB Executive Committee has “established an outline of these necessary changes”, and indicated “three goals: an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints”. These objectives, Cardinal DiNardo continued, “will be pursued according to three criteria: proper independence, sufficient authority, and substantial leadership by laity”. This concrete plan will be presented both to the US episcopate and to the Holy See. “The overarching goal in all of this”, he emphasized, “is stronger protections against predators in the Church and anyone who would conceal them, protections that will hold bishops to the highest standards of transparency and accountability”.

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St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 22, 2018

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