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Pope assumes responsibility for priest sex abuse

Pope Asks For Forgiveness For Sex Abuse By Priests


VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis said Friday he took personal responsibility for the "evil" of priests who raped and molested children, asking forgiveness from victims and saying the church must be even bolder in its efforts to protect the young. It was the first time a pope has taken personal responsibility for the sex crimes of his priests and begged forgiveness.

Francis made the off-the-cuff remarks after coming under criticism from victims' advocacy groups for a perceived lack of attention to the sexual abuse scandal and ongoing demands that he sanction bishops who covered up for pedophiles.

He delivered the comments to members of the International Catholic Child Bureau, a French Catholic network of organizations that protects children's rights. Sitting with them in his library Friday, Francis spoke slowly and softly in his native Spanish, deviating from his text.

"I feel compelled to take personal responsibility for all the evil that some priests, many - many in number, (although) not in comparison with the totality - to assume personal responsibility and to ask forgiveness for the damage caused by the sexual abuse of the children," he said.

"The church is aware of this damage," he continued. "We don't want to take a step back in dealing with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, I think we must be even stronger! You don't play around with the lives of children."

No pope has ever taken personal responsibility for the tens of thousands of children who were molested by priests over decades as bishops moved them from parish to parish rather than reporting them to police. Pope John Paul II denounced priests who hurt children, saying there was no place for them in the priesthood. Pope Benedict XVI expressed sorrow and regret to victims, met with them and even wept with them. But neither ever took personal responsibility for the scandal or begged forgiveness as Francis did.

Last month, Francis named the initial members of a commission to advise him on best practices to combat sexual abuse in the church. Half of them are women and one, Marie Collins, was assaulted by a priest as a child. Collins, who became a well-known activist in the fight for victims' justice, had previously called on Benedict to ask personal forgiveness for the scandal and those church leaders who put loyalty to the church ahead of the safety of children.

The Vatican has said Collins and the other members will draft the statutes of the commission and would look into the legal "duties and responsibilities" of church personnel, a suggestion that they might take up the critical question of disciplining complicit bishops. Church law provides for sanctions if a bishop is negligent in carrying out his duties, but to date no bishop has been disciplined for protecting an abuser.

Though unclear, Francis' comments about the "sanctions that must be imposed" could similarly be a reference to the need to make bishops accountable.

Francis named the commission members after coming under fire for taking no action since the commission itself was announced in December. Victims groups also have been irked that he hasn't met with survivors and recently told a newspaper that the church had been unfairly attacked for its abuse record.

Francis comments during the closed audience were only reported in part by Vatican Radio, and Vatican Television excluded them entirely in its initial edit of the audience. The full quote was obtained after The Associated Press requested video of the full comments from Vatican Television.


Mayra Pertossi in Buenos Aires contributed to this report.

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Peggy April 12 2014 at 11:07 AM

don't potential priests go thru background checks? how can these petifiles make it into the priesthood without any scrutiny of their behavior prior to becoming priests. this is a good argument for women to become priests. then there would be no reason for there to be a shortage of priests any longer. think about it.

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oujoou April 11 2014 at 1:56 PM

Wow. That's a really beautiful photo of the pope and the baby. I know it doesn't mean much. A lot of babies and tots scream and go nuts when they love someone who is holding them too. Still . . . priests need more than expulsion or removal of their title after they rape kids. If they are pardoned from jail in places . . . they need to be forced to get help. :( I remember that story about priests in Minnesota. That you had to BE a molester to be a priest in that awful organization. If they don't do well in jail . . . maybe they could build a jail underneath the Church where they were presiding. Monks could feed them and make sure they are in their cells all day long. :)

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1 reply
smoses80 oujoou April 11 2014 at 2:23 PM

Unfortunately there is NO help for child molesters....Truly None...

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Perry April 12 2014 at 12:20 AM

Child molesters or any molesters or rapists are so sick! They come in all forms of race, religon and from the rich and poor class. Watch your children closely. Don't be stupid and think that all of their teachers and coaches etc. are their friends. Also, don't insult these people and assume that they are bad. Just watch out. There are more good people then bad.

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1 reply
michaelg1444 Perry April 12 2014 at 1:26 AM

children can learn the beast from their parents and peers....he is there and it takes will, conscience and prayer to defeat him.....so use your allies in frances and all the saints....

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patnicolais April 12 2014 at 8:52 AM

Best Pope ever. To those who say he cannot accept responsibility for something he did not personally do - oh yes he can. He is the head of the church - "The buck stops here". You go, Pope Francis.

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hamhill569 April 11 2014 at 1:17 PM

AMEN !!!

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ColoMtnLvr April 11 2014 at 1:17 PM

'Action' always speak louder than 'words'.

Bottomline, one (mortal) cannot take or assume the 'personal responsibility' of another's sin(s). Francis' statement is meaningless. Nice try though.

On the other side, Jesus the Christ did for all those 'faithful' til death or His return.

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1 reply
erin ColoMtnLvr April 11 2014 at 1:38 PM

At least he is trying, Colo. Which is far, far more than any other Catholic figure has done.

I have a problem with people praying to him, and to the virgin Mary. They have declared Mary Magdelene a prostitute to demonize her and explain away her relationship with Jesus, (I truly believe they were husband and wife), but they have exhaulted his mother to the point of praying to her. And - they truly believe that Mary stayed a virgin her entire life, which I can't possibly believe. She was a married woman. The Bible says that Joseph "knew her not UNTIL Jesus was born". The Bible also blips over about 15 years of Jesus life. In one book, he's 15, and in the next, he's in his 30s.

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debjohnson42 April 11 2014 at 8:14 PM

I think the Pope is doing something incredible. Everyone has turned their backs on those who have sexually abused thousands of children for years, none of the priests who took advantage of these children have ever been prosecuted in a court of law. Why is it they hide behind their priesthood and get away with molestations? If they were in the public sector this would not be the case. Maybe those who have done these horrible deeds will finally have to stand up and be held accountable for their actions.

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1 reply
fspoon debjohnson42 April 11 2014 at 8:58 PM

They have been tried and put in jail. One was murdered in prison here in Massachusetts.

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2 replies
David S. fspoon April 11 2014 at 9:15 PM

That is one......most priests who molested children still walk free. To say otherwise is dishonest.

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What's Shakin T fspoon April 11 2014 at 10:37 PM

Cardinal Law was wisked back to the vatican right after being indicted by a grand jury for covering up sexual abuse. OBTW---If this pope was true to his words, he'd have Law wisked right back to the US for his indictment. This pope is a fake---the church is losing money and he wants his gullible flocks to come running back.

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brucesjt8d April 11 2014 at 1:18 PM

Oh, but on the matter of homosexuals in the Church, did Pope Francis not previously remark- "Who am I to judge" ... Well, let me see, your eminence ... Uh, the "Vicar of Christ on Earth"? Even so, you are to judge a man's actions, behaviors - which is not to say that you are judging his soul, as only God can do that. Otherwise, to what purpose is the Law?

How to solve the problem of "priests" sexually abusing children? First off, let's face the fact that these reprobates are "priests" in title only - they never held any other intention save to destroy the Church from within - as that was the mission they were sent to do!

So, to rightly address the problem, we must start by ridding the Church seminaries - and the Vatican itself - of the "homosexual mafia" that has invaded the Church, and now has a tight grip on its hierarchal functions. The fact of homosexual infiltration was first confirmed by former communist Bella Dodd, who gave her testimony that this cabal invading the Catholic Church was planned and carried out by the Communists, in league with Free Masons.

It would help too, that we call these evil infiltrators by the titles they rightly deserve: sodomites, pederasts (those who have an affinity towards pre-pubescent boys) and pedophiles (those who have an affinity towards pre-pubescent girls). Stop defending the vile practice of homosexuals, and then perhaps we will finally begin to rout their wicked plague from society.

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2 replies
hellyon3too brucesjt8d April 11 2014 at 1:26 PM

I have two words for you; STOP HATING.

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erin brucesjt8d April 11 2014 at 1:32 PM

Except that homosexuality is not the same thing as pedophilia or pederastia.

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lluckyfox April 12 2014 at 8:12 AM

Pope Francis has a huge mess to clean up but can't re-write history and can't accomplish everything as fast as everyone would like, including himself. He has proved himself so far to be a stand-up leader and deserves our prayers and support as he heals generations of wounds and wrongs.

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aabmhbetty April 11 2014 at 1:31 PM

They should do more on the legality side rather than just verbally seek forgiveness. If those abused children were one of mine this excuse or submission would not do it for me. I would want and expect legal justice. Stop hiding these pedophiles and transferring them around to different places. Have them arrested and thrown out of the church. That would prove to me that something was being done.

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