Papal letter on sex abuse seen as breakthrough but still ineffective

Pope Francis, head of the world’s estimated 1.2 billion Catholics, has published an “unprecedented” (BBC) letter acknowledging the Church’s shortcomings in dealing with clerical sexual abuse. The letter, a “bollettino,” which carries less force than other Papal messages, acknowledged that “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.” 

However the missive did not clarify what steps would now be taken to bring to justice those who had abused children.

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Sexual abuse of children by priests and, more rarely, nuns has become a huge scandal for the Catholic Church. Last week a U.S. grand jury revealed that hundreds of children were abused in the state of Pennsylvania over many years (NY Times). Other countries which have discovered long-term and systemic abuse include Ireland, Chile, Australia, Canada, Germany and The United States.

The imminent trip to Ireland represents the Pope “practically going into the frying-pan … into the heat,” Father Thomas Rosica, former Vatican press attache, told the BBC. Rosica also called the Papal letter “unprecedented.”

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A leader of Irish abuse survivors’ group One in Four told The Irish Times that they were “tired of meaningless apologies and expressions of solidarity that do not involve a clear call to action.”


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