Responding to abuse crisis, Pope asks Church to pray, fast

Pope Francis attends the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession on April 18, 2014, at the Colosseum in Rome. Photo: Giulio Napolitano/Shutterstock

Responding publicly for the first time since last week’s Pennsylvania grand jury report about widespread clergy abuse, Pope Francis on Monday called on the Church to pray and fast.

“This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says ‘never again’ to every form of abuse,” Francis said in a letter.

Francis’ response follows a statement by Vatican spokesman Greg Burke two days after the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office released a grand jury report on Aug. 14 that chronicled alleged clergy sex abuse over 70 years in six of the state’s eight dioceses.

Alluding to the report while not specifically mentioning it in Monday’s letter, Francis said, “The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity.”

Quoting Mary’s Magnificat from the Gospel of Luke, Francis said, “Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise he made to our fathers: ‘he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty’ (Luke 1:51–53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite.”

While not specifically naming other scandals that have hit the Church recently, Francis said that he is conscious of work being done in parts of the world to protect children and “vulnerable” adults, the implementation of zero-tolerance, and ways of ensuring that perpetrators and those who “cover up these crimes” are held accountable.

“We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future,” he said.

Returning to the need for the Church to do prayer and penance, Francis said the acts “will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils.”


Pope Francis’ entire letter can be found here.

Coverage from Catholic News Agency: Pope calls entire Church to pray and fast after clerical sex abuse revelations

From the Catholic Digest archives: Coping with the clergy sex abuse crisis: How do we keep the faith amid such betrayal? How do we talk to our kids about this? Here’s what you need to know

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