In his annual Christmas message to the Curia on Friday, Francis urged sexually abusive clergy to surrender to authorities.
"To those who abuse minors I would say this: convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice," he said.
The Pontiff also pledged to do everything in his power to end the scourge of clerical sex abuse: "Let it be clear that, faced with these abominations, the Church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whoever has committed such crimes. The Church will never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case."
Francis acknowledged the hierarchy's failure to stamp out sexual predation by its own.
"It is undeniable that some in the past, out of irresponsibility, disbelief, lack of training, inexperience, or spiritual and human short-sightedness, treated many cases without the seriousness and promptness that was due," he said, adding, "That must never happen again. This is the choice and the decision of the whole Church."
Though strongly-worded, the Pope's message was met with skepticism among many Church-watchers. Critics point out that while Francis, though promising a "zero tolerance" policy on sex abuse, has taken action against abusers like Theodore McCarrick and Chilean priest Fr. Fernando Karadima only when their crimes were uncovered in the secular press.
Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio "released no documents, no names of accused priests, no tallies of accused priests, no policy for handling abuse, not even an apology to victims," reports watchdog group Bishop Accountability. "In his many homilies and statements (archived on the Buenos Aires archdiocesan website), he attacked government corruption, wealth inequities, and human sex trafficking, but he said nothing about sexual violence by priests."
As archbishop, they note, Bergoglio even seemed to suggest clerical sex abuse was not a problem in Buenos Aires.
"In my diocese it never happened to me," he remarked in a 2010 interview, "but a bishop called me once by phone to ask me what to do in a situation like this and I told him to take away the priest's faculties, not to permit him to exercise his priestly ministry again, and to initiate a canonical trial."
Bergoglio's claim — that "in my diocese it never happened to me" — was false. Nine years earlier, Fr. Carlos María Gauna, an archdiocesan priest under the cardinal's direct supervision, was publicly accused of assault.
Faithful Catholics are also pointing out that Francis is still speaking in terms of child sex abuse and avoiding any mention of homosexual predation.
In August, after Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò released his bombshell testimony on Pope Francis and the homosexual current in the Church, Vatican expert Aldo Maria Valli recounted a personal conversation with the whistleblower prelate.
Valli asked the former papal nuncio how such filth could have infiltrated the Church.
"Because those cracks mentioned by Paul VI, from which Satan's smoke would have slipped into the house of God, have become chasms," Viganò replied. "The devil is working powerfully. And not to admit it, or to turn your face to the other side, would be our greatest sin."