On Monday, Pope Francis issued a letter to Catholics around the world about clerical sex abuse, begging forgiveness for the "suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power, and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons." He called for change to laws and Catholic culture and asked lay Catholics to help effect that change. The Vatican released the letter, a response to a grand jury report from Pennsylvania, as Francis heads to Ireland, which is grappling with its own abuses by the Catholic Church.
Pope Francis was pretty direct:
Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. ... The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. [Pope Francis]
The pope pointed to "clericalism," criticizing this ecclesiastical elitism as a "peculiar way of understanding the church's authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred." He expressed "shame and repentance" on behalf of priests and bishops, writing: "We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them." Pope Francis called for "penance and prayer" by all Catholics, saying fasting "can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary." You can read the entire letter via the Vatican. Peter Weber