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Pope Francis praying, Vatican Media

Vatican on PA Grand Jury Report: ‘Condemns Abuses Unequivocally’, ‘Criminally, Morally Reprehensible,’ Church Wants to Listen to Victims ‘to Root Out Tragic Horror’ Destroying Lives of Innocent

‘Victims should know that the Pope is on their side’

The Holy See ‘condemns unequivocally’ sexual abuse of minors … the Church is determined to listen to victims ‘to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent’ … Victims, the Pope is on your side…

This was at the heart of the Vatican’s August 16, 2018, response in the wake of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report that found 300 priests have engaged in abuse of more than 1,000 victims. The statement was issued by Vatican Press Office Director, Greg Burke, noted that faced with this crisis, two words come to mind: ‘sorrow’ and ‘shame.’

Burke stressed that “victims should know that the Pope is on their side. Those who have suffered are his priority, and the Church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent.

“The Holy See treats with great seriousness the work of the Investigating Grand Jury of Pennsylvania and the lengthy Interim Report it has produced. The Holy See condemns unequivocally the sexual abuse of minors.”

Burke said the abuses described in the grand jury report are both “criminal and morally reprehensible” and were “betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of the dignity and their faith.”  He said the Church must learn “hard lessons” from its past and called for accountability not only for abusers and for those who allowed the abuse to occur.

Noting that the grand jury report includes mostly cases from before the early 2000s, Burke suggested the reforms in the United States have reduced the incidence of abuse.  But he said reform must continue.

“The Holy See encourages continued reform and vigilance at all levels of the Catholic Church, to help ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults from harm,” the statement said. “The Holy See also wants to underscore the need to comply with the civil law, including mandatory child abuse reporting requirements.

“The Holy Father understands well how much these crimes can shake the faith and the spirit of believers and reiterates the call to make every effort to create a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the Church and in all of society.”

With Deborah Castellano Lubov

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Greg Burke’s full statement:

Regarding the report made public in Pennsylvania this week, there are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow.

The Holy See treats with great seriousness the work of the Investigating Grand Jury of Pennsylvania and the lengthy Interim Report it has produced.The Holy See condemns unequivocally the sexual abuse of minors.

The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible. Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith. The Church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur.

Most of the discussion in the report concerns abuses before the early 2000s. By finding almost no cases after 2002, the Grand Jury’s conclusions are consistent with previous studies showing that Catholic Church reforms in the United States drastically reduced the incidence of clergy child abuse. The Holy See encourages continued reform and vigilance at all levels of the Catholic Church, to help ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults from harm. The Holy See also wants to underscore the need to comply with the civil law, including mandatory child abuse reporting requirements.

The Holy Father understands well how much these crimes can shake the faith and the spirit of believers and reiterates the call to make every effort to create a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the Church and in all of society.

Victims should know that the Pope is on their side. Those who have suffered are his priority, and the Church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent.

About Jim Fair and Deborah Castellano Lubov

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