Papal letter on sex abuse seen as breakthrough but still ineffective

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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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