VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Holy Father is promising to work more diligently against sex abuse perpetrated by priests.
Speaking on Thursday to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors during its Plenary Assembly, Pope Francis declared, "The Church irrevocably and at all levels seeks to apply the principle of 'zero tolerance' against sexual abuse of minors."
Regarding his ability to grant papal pardon to abusive clergy and religious, Francis said he never has and never will use this power. He also expressed regret about the lenient way he handled an unnamed priest sex abuse case in the past; and he resolved to never extend this leniency again. The pope explained, "Why? Simply because the person who does this is sick. It is a sickness."
He noted that priests, bishops and religious found guilty of sex abuse are likely to abuse Catholic children again unless they get laicized. Laicization removes abusers from easy access to potential victims, at least, among children and vulnerable adults within the Church.
Pope Francis' comment about his past leniency seems to refer to the case of Fr. Mauro Inzoli. The pope went against the advice of many when he countered Pope Benedict XVI's laicization of Fr. Inzoli. He opted, instead, to remove the abuser priest from public ministry, assigning him a life of discipline, prayer and fasting. But after new evidence surfaced about Fr. Inzoli's history of abuse, the priest experienced a second Church trial in which Pope Francis removed Inzoli from all priestly service, reducing him to the lay state.
The Holy Father said that if there is proof of someone committing sexual abuse, then that "is sufficient to receive no appeal" for clemency. "If there is proof, end of story."
At one point during his speech, Pope Francis condemned the practice of shuffling pedophiles from parish to parish. He noted, "Perhaps the old practice of moving people around, not confronting the problem, lulled consciences to sleep."
The pope lamented, "When the consciousness arrives late, the means to solve the problem arrive late." He added, "I am aware of this difficulty, but it is the reality: We have arrived late."
Some secular news outlets reported that the Holy Father used the phrase "a bit late" — a misleading translation, as it what he actually said was tardi, meaning "late," rather than un po tardi, meaning "a bit late."
The Pope lauded the good work of the commission. He noted that everyone in the Church has a duty to protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse but "the primary responsibility lies with bishops, priests and religious."