Pope promises action on child abuse in Catholic Church

Tuesday, 26 Feb, 2019

Pope Francis has vowed to crack down on sex abuse cover ups at the Vatican's child sex abuse summit.

He then outlined eight principles for the church: protecting children; maintaining "seriousness" and rejecting cover-ups; "purification" within the church; better screening for candidates for the priesthood to avoid potential abusers; taking a united approach to the issue across bishops conferences; accompanying those who have been abused; confronting child pornography and online abuse; and combating "sexual tourism".

However, survivors of clerical abuse expressed disappointment over the Pope's address and the summit's pledges, which they said amounted to micro-reform.

"It's not like there is an enormous diffusion of these crimes inside Vatican City State or the Curia", summit moderator the Rev Federico Lombardi said.

After the conference, the Vatican says it will formulate follow-up measures to make sure all bishops return home knowing how to put anti-abuse procedures into place.

The meeting of the world's top bishops which Pope Francis has called is part of an effort to tackle a crisis that has dogged the Catholic Church for decades.

During the conference, a list of 21 "reflection points" was handed out. These were based on guidance from the World Health Organisation and global agencies.

The Jesuit pope claimed the vast majority of sexual abuse happens in the family.

Francis told his summit Sunday that Vatican laws criminalizing possession of child porn involving children under 14 should change to raise the age and expand the protections for minors. Archbishop Scicluna later told journalists it would be raised to 18.

The Mass was being celebrated Sunday in the Sala Regia, one of the grand, frescoed reception rooms of the Apostolic Palace. "Yet we need to be clear, that while gravely affecting our societies as a whole, this evil is in no way less monstrous when it takes place within the Church". Standing in front of St. Peter's Basilica, Peter Saunders, a sex abuse survivor visiting Rome with the group Ending Clergy Abuse, said he was "very disappointed" with both the pontiff's address and the summit in general.

"Not only is this a problem to solve but this is at the heart of the church", Cupich said.

"I don't think there will be progress unless they allow the lay people to take care of the things because bishops and cardinals and even the pope, well I don't trust them anymore", Tosatti said.

The archbishop is also adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and it is this department which is drafting a "vademecum" on the legal and pastoral responsibilities the bishops to tackle abuse. Those conferences were asked in 2011 to draw up such protocols, but not all followed the request.

Along with the handbook, the Pope is preparing to set up special "task forces" in order to "help episcopal conferences and dioceses that find it hard to confront the problems and produce initiatives for the protection of minors".

Another victim from Asia said he had been molested more than 100 times. When a priest abuser is defrocked the Church loses jurisdiction over them.

The bishops have discussed several measures, including a proposal to hold bishops accountable and lift the Pontifical Secret that often keeps abuse victims in the dark about how their church trials are processing.

The Pope underlined that activities and places in the Church had to be fully safe for minors.