In a week when Pope Francis addressed a number of controversial topics, none was more so than the subject of child sexual abuse by the Catholic priests and clergy. Every Florida child abuse attorney and advocates from around the country are watching closely to see how the Pope lives up to his promises made during public meetings and private statements.
He met and prayed this week with victims and families who suffered sexual abuse. And he spoke publicly to church leaders and others about how the church will handle the matter going forward.
“God weeps” was his public statement about the long-held suffering. He also said that those priests and bishops who abused children or covered up the crimes would be held accountable.
This is a dramatic departure from how the Vatican has addressed such allegations and crimes in the past. While the U.S. Roman Catholic Church and U.S dioceses have paid out millions of dollars in settlements and compensation in child sex scandals, the Pope’s public statements could go a long way in bringing acknowledgment to the abuse and closure for some of the abused.
This past June, Pope Francis approved a tribunal to hear cases of bishops accused of covering up child abuse by priests accused of sexual abuse. Now, in America, he made the pledge that “all responsible will be held accountable.”
During off-script remarks made during a speech in the chapel at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on Sunday, Pope Francis said “God weeps” at the sexual abuse of children. “I commit to the careful oversight to ensure that youth are protected.”
For those who fight for the rights of abused children, this is a very important step toward acknowledgement of their pain, and closure of their wounds.