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Thursday, 05 January 2017 16:56

Pope sends child sexual abuse ‘zero tolerance’ message to bishops

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tjhc logo150In a media release, Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Catholic Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council, emphasised Pope Francis' message in the new year urging bishops to ensure abuse never takes place again.

Pope Francis has once again sent a clear message to bishops across Australia and around the world that there is ‘zero tolerance’ for crimes against children, for failing to help, for covering up and for the abuse of power within the universal Catholic Church.

In a letter sent on 2 January to celebrate the feast of the Holy Innocents, Pope Francis has made it clear bishops worldwide must do what is needed to ensure children are protected from sexual abuse by clergy:

It is a sin that shames us. Persons responsible for the protection of those children destroyed their dignity. We regret this deeply and we beg forgiveness. We join in the pain of the victims and weep for this sin. The sin of what happened, the sin of failing to help, the sin of covering up and denial, the sin of the abuse of power. The Church also weeps bitterly over this sin of her sons and she asks forgiveness. Today, as we commemorate the feast of the Holy Innocents, I would like us to renew our complete commitment to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst. Let us find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect in every way the lives of our children, so that such crimes may never be repeated. In this area, let us adhere, clearly and faithfully, to “zero tolerance”.

Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Catholic Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council, said the message is unambiguous.

“The Pope has again begged for forgiveness from the survivors of clerical sexual and renewed the Church’s commitment to ensuring the abuse never takes place again,” he said.

“These are not just words. This is a clear instruction, at the start of a New Year, from the leader of the Catholic Church calling on bishops to take action.

“During February, as we go through our final Royal Commission public hearing, church leaders will be asked to demonstrate what has changed over the past 20 years and particularly over the past four years of Commission.

“Bishops will need to lay out in clear terms what zero tolerance will mean, how it will operate and what standards they will comply with.

“As we enter the final year of the Royal Commission now is the time for all church leaders and the Catholic community as a whole to review what has been done, to look for new opportunities and to demonstrate beyond doubt that child sexual abuse survivors, now and in the future, will be treated with care, compassion and respect and that the abuse of decades past can never happen again.”

Media contact: Michael Salmon 0417 495 018

The Truth Justice and Healing Council is coordinating the Catholic Church’s response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.