Pope Francis called April 11 for an “even stronger” Catholic Church response to combat sexual abuse, saying he felt compelled to “personally ask forgiveness” for priests who have sexually abused children.
“The Church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed,” the Pope told the International Child Bureau in an April 11 audience at the Vatican, according to Vatican Radio.
He said the response to sex abuse has to be “even stronger” because “you cannot interfere with children.”
The International Catholic Child Bureau is a Catholic NGO dedicated to global work on behalf of children.
The Pope also discussed other issues affecting children. He stressed the importance of fighting slave labor, recruitment of children as soldiers, and “all forms of violence against children.”
“On a positive note, we must reaffirm the right of children to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity,” he said.
The Pope voiced support for parents to decide their children’s moral and religious education, while he rejected “any kind of educational experimentation with children.”
“The horrors of the manipulation of education that we experienced in the great genocidal dictatorships of the twentieth century have not disappeared; they have retained a current relevance under various guises and proposals and, with the pretense of modernity, push children and young people to walk on the dictatorial path of ‘only one form of thought’,” he warned.
Pope Francis also reflected on the need for sound formation of human rights advocates.
He said that work for human rights presupposes a good understanding of the human person and “knowing how to respond to the problems and challenges posed by contemporary culture and widespread mentality propagated by the mass media.”
He urged the children’s rights advocates to propose the “positive values of the human person.”