Pope Francis urged pedophile priests, and bishops who have covered for them, to turn themselves in to “human justice” and to prepare for “divine justice,” NPR News is reporting.
Speaking to Vatican officials in his annual Christmas speech, the pontiff’s message this year focused almost entirely on the matter of sexual abuse of children by priests, and wide-ranging cover-ups by bishops who tried to shield them. The speech came even as some members of the Vatican Curia – that is, the Cardinals and others who essentially govern the Catholic Church – complain that the media has focused too much on the matter of sexual abuse of children within the Church. Francis rejected that outright.
“The greater scandal in this matter is that of cloaking the truth.”
In fact, the pope actually thanked the media who exposed the crimes of the church, praising the journalists who gave the victims a voice.
And in the most damning rebuke of all to pedophile priests and their superiors who cover for them, the pontiff was clear and direct: turn yourselves in “to human justice” – that is, the law, and prepare for “divine justice.”
Much of the pope’s speech drew directly from the Bible itself. For example, he mentioned the Old Testament’s King David, whose crimes described in the Biblical narrative – sexual abuse and abuse of power – mirror those of pedophile priests. He also noted that David repented of his sins.
Pope: “Let it be clear that in the face of these abominations the church will not hold back anything in doing all that is necessary to bring to justice whoever has committed these crimes. The church will never try to cover up or to underestimate any case.” https://t.co/splk0kHur4
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) December 21, 2018
In another Biblical reference, the pontiff called attention to Jesus’ disciple Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus. Francis said that priests who betray their vows are no different than Judas. Further, he said that Judas will always be present in the church since he represents human weakness, and the church is composed of humans.
Lastly, the pontiff promised that the Catholic Church will “never again” cover up or ignore allegations of sexual abuse by priests, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
“Let it be clear that before these abominations the church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes.”
Francis himself has faced his own sexual abuse scandal, apart from the larger sexual abuse scandal encompassing the entire church as a whole. As Deutsche Welle reported earlier this month, the pope admitted at the time that he made “grave mistakes” in his handling of a clergy sex abuse case coming out of Chile. The pontiff had previously defended Chilean Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused of having witnessed a pedophile priest and doing nothing about it.