By Duane Paul Murphy
On the last day of his historic six day American tour, while staying at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, Pope Francis made statements about the pedophilia scandals that have plagued the Roman Catholic Church.
“For those who were abused by a member of the clergy, I am deeply sorry for the times when you or your family spoke out, to report the abuse, but you were not heard or believed,” said Pope Francis. “Please know that the Holy Father hears you and believes you. I deeply regret that some bishops failed in their responsibility to protect children. It is very disturbing to know that in some cases bishops even were abusers. I pledge to you that we will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead. Clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children.”
Pope Francis’s remarks were made public in a written speech to international media and other present guests, especially a group of five abuse survivors who are now adults.
This is not the first time Pope Francis has pledged committed action to tackle such publicized scandals and crimes. During Pope Francis’s first year as the leader of the Church and the Vatican city-state, he set up a special committee to further investigate and combat child sex abuse.
This committee also offered aid and support to the victims. In June of 2015, Pope Francis officially approved the creation of a Vatican Tribunal based on the 2013 committee that will hear cases of bishops who are accused of covering up child sex abuse by priests within their local dioceses. The committee has the ability to punish bishops who have committed cover-ups as well as failed to protect innocent minors. The new Tribunal came into effect in the wake of prolonged frustrations and skepticisms with the Catholic Church’s handling of the situation as well as a 2014 United Nations Report on how the Vatican failed to end sexual abuse against children and for allowing such cover-ups to occur.
“The University follows the teachings of the Catholic Church faithfully and in their entirety,” said the former Catholic University Spokesman and Associative Vice President for Public Affairs, Victor Nakas. “Our faith and Catholic teachings condemn violence of any kind against human beings, including and especially children and the unborn. Sexual abuse is a crime and we would treat it as we would any other crime, report it promptly to the police.”
“I think it was absolutely so in line with Pope Francis to meet with people who have been abused by priests and that I fully support his ministry because he wants people to heal,” said Catholic University’s Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry, the Reverend Jude DeAngelo. “We have an obligation as a church and as clergy to help people to heal and then hopefully to protect their faith. When something like this happens, it becomes, I think, really difficult and people cannot only have all kinds of emotional and mental anguish. Sometimes in the past, I think they were abused again by the lack of response from the Church. This is all coming out of the Church realizing in its leadership that victims of clergy abuse need to be taken care of and that they need to be ministered to. So I was really appreciative of what the Holy Father had to say. If there is abuse of a person over eighteen years old, that is handled by the school as anything else would be handled by the school in terms of a crime. Under seventeen years old, if the person was under the age of eighteen years old, not only it would be the crime, but then you’re calling in immediately into the requirements of the Charter of American Bishops that all the cardinals and bishops singed on to. We would minister to that student pastorally to help them to get all the support they need.”
Father Jude referenced the Charter For The Protection Of Children And Young People, which was established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 in order to address allegations of child sexual abuse committed by clergy members. The documents also included guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability, and prevention of future acts of child sex abuse within the Roman Catholic Church in America.