Pope Francis has called for strong, specific worldwide measures for the Roman Catholic Church to act “with determination” against clergy sex abuse — the scandal that has rocked the church for more than a decade.
It is one of the first actions on a major issue in Francis’ weeks-old papacy, one marked chiefly by attention to his humble, cut-the-pageantry style.
After he met Friday with the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, the Vatican said in a statement: “The Holy Father recommended that the congregation continue the line sought by Benedict XVI, to act with determination in regard to cases of sexual abuse.”
Francis cited measures to protect minors, help victims of sexual violence and necessary action against perpetrators, and emphasize that drafting and implementing directives by bishops’ conferences around the world is important to the credibility of the church.
Today’s actions also contain another clue to how Francis will be pope: He calls on the various national bishops’ conferences around the world to step up to disciplining priests and serving victims. This could be an indication that he will move from a strongly centralized government of the church of 1.2 billion people to one that places increased authority locally.
The abuse crisis exploded on the world stage in Boston in January 2002 and by June that year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops led the world in establishing a zero-tolerance policy for abusive priests, removing them from ministry, and reaching out to victims.
Make sure to read: