“As a priest, I have to help people grow and save them. If I abuse, I kill them. This is terrible. Zero tolerance.”
This is how Pope Francis reflected on the crime of priestly sexual abuse in an interview July 2 with Reuters. The section of the interview in which the Pope spoke of sexual abuse was just released today.
“[After Boston] the Church started zero tolerance slowly and moved forward. And I think the direction taken on this is irreversible,” said Francis, in reference to the scandal of sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston that came to light in 2002.
As his predecessor did, Francis has made various moves to further help the Church battle this crime. One of those decisions came earlier this year, as the Holy Father changed the structure of the Church’s doctrinal body to give it better resources and disciplinary strength.
He divided the CDF (now DDF) into two distinct sections, a doctrinal and a disciplinary section, each with their own secretary.
While Pope Francis recognized that the problem of sexual abuse is much broader than the Church, he emphasized that the Church’s own work is going forward.
The Pope cited a recent meeting with visitors who told him how in their country about 46% of abuse occurs in the family and noted that “this is terrible.” (In the United States, it’s estimated that this number is even higher,with as many as half of child sex abuse cases coming from a family member).
But the Pope added: “This does not justify anything”: Even if it were a matter of a single case of abuse perpetrated by a priest, it would be shameful and it would need to be fought.
“We have to fight against every single case,” he said.
The Pope also praised the work of Cardinal Sean O’Malley, current archbishop of Boston and President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and the British-born Secretary of the Commission, Fr. Andrew Small, OMI, as “courageous” men worthy of recognition.
The Pope reaffirmed that he totally supports the work of the Commission.