No place for cover-up in church, Pope warns

Pope Francis has called the cover-up of abuse by bishops a “terrible thing”, explaining that this was why he had earlier in Philadelphia said that “the crimes and sins of the sexual abuse of children must no longer be held in secret”, pledging “the promise of accountability for all”.

The Pope was speaking during an in-flight press conference while returning to Rome from the US. Asked why he had offered words of consolation to American bishops in the aftermath of the abuse scandals, he said many bishops had suffered as they had been unaware of what was happening. 

Describing abuse as “almost a sacrilege”, the Pontiff said while abuse takes place everywhere, “when a priest abuses it is very serious” because abusive priests betray their vocations to help children grow towards maturity, good, and God’s love by harming them instead. 

“For this reason the church is strong on this and one must not cover these things up,” he said, adding that it was a “terrible thing” that bishops had done this, and that they were wrong to have played down its significance when told of abuse. 

The Pope also added that he understands and prays for those who have fallen away from the Church because of abuse, and who cannot bring themselves to forgive what happened. Relating how an abuse survivor had once told him how her mother had lost her faith through anger and died an atheist, Pope Francis said, “I understand that woman. I understand her, and God who is even better than me understands her. 

Other questions addressed the Church’s new annulment processes, the migrant crisis and the possibility of ordaining women, with Pope Francis reaffirming Church teaching, saying it “cannot be done”.