VATICAN CITY (CNS) — “No effort must be spared” to prevent future cases of clerical sexual abuse and “to prevent the possibility of their being covered up,” Pope Francis said in a letter addressed “to the people of God.”
“I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons,” the pope wrote in the letter dated and released Aug. 20.
The letter was published less than a week after the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on decades of clerical sexual abuse and cover-ups in six dioceses. The report spoke of credible allegations against 301 priests in cases involving more than 1,000 children.
” Pope Francis said. “But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence them.”
“The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain,” he said, “and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.”
In his letter, Pope Francis insisted all Catholics must be involved in the effort to accompany victims, to strengthen safeguarding measures and to end a culture where abuse is covered up.
While the letter called all Catholics to prayer and fasting, it does not change any current policies or offer specific new norms.
It did, however, insist that “clericalism” has been a key part of the problem and said the involvement of the laity will be crucial to addressing the crime and scandal.
Change, he said, will require “the active participation of all the members of God’s people.”
“Many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred,” he said, are groups where there has been an effort to “reduce the people of God to small elites.”