Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi has defended Pope Francis’ comments, made in an interview yesterday with an Italian newspaper, on the Church’s commitment to combat child abuse.
Some criticized the Holy Father’s words, saying that he was making the Church a victim of the scandal.
In the interview with Corriere della Sera, the Pope defended the steps taken by the Church to ensure the safety of children.
“The cases of abuse are terrible because they leave very profound wounds,” he said. “Benedict XVI was very courageous and opened the way. And, following that way, the Church advanced a lot, perhaps more than anyone.”
“The statistics on the phenomenon of violence against children are shocking, but they also show clearly that the great majority of the abuses come from the family environment and from people who are close. The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that moved with transparency and responsibility. No one else did as much. And yet, the Church is the only one being attacked.”
In an email to Nicole Winfield of the Associated Press, Fr. Lombardi addressed criticisms that the Church has been slow in its creation of a commission for the protection of minors. The commission was announced by Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston at the conclusion of meetings of the Council of Cardinals, also known as the G8, in December.
Fr. Lombardi said that although reforms within the Vatican bureaucracy are taking time, he had no doubt that the commission will arrive soon.
“I’m waiting for it, and I hope with all my heart (and I know that qualified experts have been contacted in an exploratory way to see if they would be available),” he wrote in the email. “And I hope that the commission will also be able to propose to the Pope initiatives adapted to give a true broad impulse in the Church for the active protection of minors.”
Regarding what has been described as the Pope’s “defensive” tone, Fr. Lombardi said that it was a recognition of the fact that while the Church has been committed to repairing past failures, it has “not been recognized objectively.”
“At the same time,” Fr. Lombardi noted, “it is clear that there is still an immense task to do for the past, for the present and, even more so, for the future. The Pope knows this well.” (J.A.E.)