In his strongest words yet, the pontiff condemns clerics involved in child sex abuse in the preface to a shocking new book by one of their accusers.
Pope Francis has been criticized in the past for not taking a harder stance against pedophile priests. His Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has been slow to start, condemned for missteps surrounding the forced leave of absence for Peter Saunders, one of two commission members who is a victim of clerical abuse. And the group faced accusations last year that it was out of touch and irrelevant because it wasn’t even involved in training new bishops about how to handle clerical-abuse accusations.
But writing in the preface of a hard-hitting new book, I Forgive You, Father by Swiss clerical sex-abuse survivor Daniel Pittet, Pope Francis makes it abundantly clear where he stands on this issue. In doing so, he asks the uncomfortable questions for which everyone familiar with the sordid history of clerical sex abuse have long wanted answers.
“How can a priest at the service of Christ and his church cause so much harm?” writes Pope Francis. “How can someone who devoted their life to lead children to God, end up instead to devour them in what I call a ‘diabolical sacrifice’ that destroys both the victim and the life of the church? Some of the victims have been driven to suicide. These deaths weigh on my heart, on my conscience and that of the whole church.”
Two years ago, Francis met Pittet, who was systematically raped for four years starting when he was just 8 years old by his parish priest in Switzerland. He supported Pittet’s desire to meet his abuser, who was never punished by secular or church authorities, but instead moved from Switzerland to France, where Pittet says he abused “hundreds of boys.”
Pittet says that when he met the pope, they wept together over the sins of the priest who, when Pittet faced him, showed fear, but “no remorse” for his crimes, he says.
“It is an absolute monstrosity, a horrible sin, radically against everything that Christ has taught us,” Francis writes about Pittet’s personal story, which he has shared with thousands of others. “I thank Daniel, because testimony like his breaks down the wall of silence that has covered scandals and suffering, shedding light on a terrible dark era in the life of the church. They open the way to a just mending and to the grace of reconciliation, helping pedophiles to become aware of the terrible consequences of their actions.”
SOURCE: BARBIE LATZA NADEAU