ROME - The Vatican has called the sex abuse described in a U.S. grand jury report in Pennsylvania "criminal and morally reprehensible" and said "the church must learn hard lessons from its past." The report about clergy who raped and molested children in six dioceses was made public Tuesday.
The Vatican broke its silence with a long statement that used unusually strong language, two days after the publication of a detailed Pennsylvania grand jury report on 70 years of sexual abuse by the clergy in that state.
The statement by the director of the Vatican’s communications office, Greg Burke, said the Vatican expressed "shame and sorrow" at the revelations that 300 priests in Pennsylvania abused at least 1,000 children over seven decades.
"The acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith," Burke said. "The church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur."
Pope Francis has been very clear there will be zero tolerance of sexual abuse by the clergy and cover-ups by the church hierarchy. He recently accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former Archbishop of Washington, who is accused of sexual misconduct. Now there are also demands in the United States that the current Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, step down.
In the statement, Burke added that: "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."
"Victims should know that the pope is on their side," the statement added. "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 Church has been facing accusations of sexual abuse by the clergy in many countries. Just recently, five bishops resigned in Chile in a sexual abuse scandal there.
And next weekend Pope Francis will be travelling to Ireland, which is also no stranger to sex abuse by priests. Survivors there will also no doubt expect to hear from Pope Francis on what concrete measures and action the Church will take to ensure the complete eradication of sex abuse by members of the clergy.