‘These crimes shake the spirit of believers’ – Vatican expresses ‘shame and sorrow’ over US grand jury report on abuse

These crimes shake the spirit of believers, Pope Francis admits

St Peters Square and the Vatican (John Walton/PA)
St Peters Square and the Vatican (John Walton/PA)

THE Vatican tonight broke its silence on the latest clerical scandal to rock America, condemning the sex abuse and saying Pope Francis is on victims’ side.

A statement tonight said that Pope Francis understands how “these crimes can shake the faith and spirit of believers”.

More than 300 “predator” priests were this week accused of abusing more than 1,000 children across seven decades in Pennsylvania.

The Vatican called the sex abuse described in a grand jury report in Pennsylvania “criminal and morally reprehensible”.

It said the church must “learn hard lessons from its past” as it vowed to “root out this tragic horror”.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said that victims should know that Pope Francis is on their side.

The outcry comes just days before the start of the World Meeting of Families in Ireland which culminates with a papal visit to Dublin and Knock.

US Catholic bishops today called for a Vatican-led probe, backed by lay investigators, into allegations of sexual abuse by former Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who resigned last month.

“Whatever the details may turn out to be regarding Archbishop McCarrick or the many abuses in Pennsylvania (or anywhere else), we already know that one root cause is the failure of episcopal leadership,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, who is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The group said it would create a new way for victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy to report allegations, and for those claims to be investigated without interference by the bishops who oversee priests who are accused of sex abuse.

It said that mechanism would involve more church members who were not members of the clergy – but had expertise in law enforcement or psychology.

The Pennsylvania grand jury report on Tuesday was just the latest bombshell in a scandal that erupted onto the global stage in 2002, when the ‘Boston Globe’ reported that for decades, priests had sexually assaulted minors while church leaders covered up their crimes.

Similar reports have since emerged in Europe, Australia and Chile, undercutting the moral authority of the leadership of the Catholic Church, which has some 1.2 billion members globally.

McCarrick last month became the first cardinal in living memory to lose his red hat and title.

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