Pope Francis denounced sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests and announced plans on Monday to meet with a handful of victims, vowing a “zero tolerance” policy toward the abuse.
The pope told reporters that clergy who committed such crimes “betray” the Lord by betraying a child’s trust, comparing the act to “celebrating a satanic Mass.”
“You are supposed to bring these kids to sanctity and you bring them a problem that will last all their life,” he said, according to a pool report.
Pope Francis also revealed plans to meet with six to eight victims from various countries for a Mass at the Vatican hotel in early June that would include Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, of the Archdiocese of Boston. The archdiocese said the details of the meeting have not yet been decided.
“The universal Church and the international community are blessed by Pope Francis continuing a leadership role in the response to the tragic events concerning the sexual abuse of minors by clergy,” the Archdiocese of Boston said in a statement. “Cardinal O’Malley has been asked by the Holy Father to assist with the planning for a meeting with survivors of sexual abuse in the coming months. At this time the date of the meeting and other details have not been finalized. The Cardinal looks forward to supporting this effort by Pope Francis in whatever manner will be most helpful.”
The announced meeting and comments failed to appease at least one group that advocates for abuse victims.
“Francis made three meaningless abuse comments today,” Joelle Casteix, western regional director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in a statement released Tuesday. “None of them are significant in any way. All are disappointing because they amount to more public relations instead of real action.
“No child rape will be prevented, no abuse cover up will be prevented and no predator priest will be exposed by anything the pope said today or will do next month,” she continued. “His upcoming and self-serving meeting with victims is more of what we’ve seen for decades – more gestures, promises, symbolism and public relations.”