Skip to main content

Pope Francis to meet with sexual abuse victims

By Dana Ford, CNN
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Tue May 27, 2014
Pope Francis speaks during the feast-day Mass on a one-day trip to the Calabrian region of Italy on Saturday, June 21. The Pope spoke out against the Mafia's "adoration of evil and contempt for the common good," and declared that "mafiosi are excommunicated, not in communion with God.' Pope Francis speaks during the feast-day Mass on a one-day trip to the Calabrian region of Italy on Saturday, June 21. The Pope spoke out against the Mafia's "adoration of evil and contempt for the common good," and declared that "mafiosi are excommunicated, not in communion with God.'
HIDE CAPTION
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Pope says "the door is always open" on celibacy discussions
  • The meeting would mark his first with a group of abuse victims
  • Speaking to reporters aboard the papal plane, the pontiff called for zero tolerance
  • While in Mideast, he invites Israeli, Palestinian leaders to Vatican to pray

(CNN) -- Pope Francis spoke out against sexual abuse by Catholic clergy on Monday and said he plans to meet with victims in early June.

In a wide-ranging talk with reporters, he also discussed celibacy in the clergy, saying it's not dogma so "the door is always open."

The Pope fielded questions on these subjects during an informal chat with reporters. He simply walked to the back of the papal airplane, sat down with a group of journalists and took questions for about 45 minutes, answering in Italian.

When the Vatican spokesman suggested he stop after half an hour to rest, the Pope indicated he was happy to continue. Such informality has become a hallmark of Pope Francis.

Stressing that sex abuse constitutes a horrific crime, he told reporters that three bishops are under investigation. One has already been found guilty and a penalty is being considered, he said.

It was not clear whether the bishops are under investigation for alleged abuse, or for purported involvement in some sort of cover-up. None of those clerics were named.

A priest who abuses a child betrays the body of the Lord, the Pope said, according to pool reports. He called for zero tolerance.

"This is very serious," he said. "It is like, by way of comparison, holding a black Mass. You are supposed to lead them to sanctity and instead you lead them to a problem that will last their entire lives."

Pope Francis prays in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on Monday, May 26. The Pope has been on a three-day historic trip to the Middle East, his first as leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis prays in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on Monday, May 26. The Pope has been on a three-day historic trip to the Middle East, his first as leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
Pope visits Holy Land
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: Pope visits Holy Land Photos: Pope visits Holy Land
Pope condemns clergy who sexually abused

Among the expected invitees to the meeting are abuse victims from Germany, England and Ireland, and Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston.

Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the cardinal, said the time and date of the meeting have not been finalized.

"Cardinal O'Malley has been asked by the Holy Father to assist with the planning for a meeting with survivors of sexual abuse in the coming months," said Donilon. "The cardinal looks forward to supporting this effort by Pope Francis in whatever manner will be most helpful."

The meeting at the Vatican will not be the first time a pope has met with sexual abuse victims, according to John L. Allen Jr., CNN's senior Vatican analyst. However, it will mark the first time Pope Francis has done so.

"This is a clear indication that Francis is trying to get the message out that he 'gets it' about the need to confront the church's abuse scandals," Allen said.

However, the U.S.-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said the pope's comments did not go far enough.

"No child rape will be prevented, no abuse cover-up will be prevented and no predator priest will be exposed by anything the pope said today or will do next month," Joelle Casteix, western regional director of SNAP, said in a statement. "His upcoming and self-serving meeting with victims is more of what we've seen for decades -- more gestures, promises, symbolism and public relations."

When reporters asked about celibacy in the clergy, Pope Francis showed an open mind but didn't say he's ready to make a change yet.

"The Catholic Church has married priests -- Greek Catholics, Coptic Catholics, those of oriental rites," he said. "Celibacy is not a question of dogma, but rather a rule of life that I greatly appreciate, as I believe it is a gift for the Church. But, since it is not a dogma of faith, the door is always open."

The pontiff spoke as he was returning to Rome from a three-day trip to the Middle East.

During that trip, the Pope extended an invitation to the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to travel to the Vatican for peace talks.

In comments aboard the plane, he clarified the talks would not focus on finding a solution.

"It will be a meeting of prayer," he said.

The Pope also appeared to open the door to the possibility he might resign one day, like his predecessor, if he no longer had the strength to carry on.

"I think that Pope Benedict XVI was not a unique case," Francis told reporters. "I will do what God tells me to do."

Kick out those who sexually abuse children, U.N. panel tells Vatican

Vatican setting up commission against sexual abuse of minors

CNN's Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:59 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Using his strongest language to date, Pope Francis told Italian Mafia members that they are excommunicated from the Catholic Church.
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Fri June 20, 2014
"Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise," Pope Francis said.
updated 12:45 PM EDT, Fri June 20, 2014
No topic has been off limits for Pope Francis so far.
updated 5:33 PM EDT, Sat June 14, 2014
Pope Francis prefers not to use a bulletproof Popemobile because it is a glass "sardine can" that walls him off from people.
updated 12:58 AM EDT, Mon June 9, 2014
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres committed themselves to the quest for peace with Pope Francis.
updated 2:46 PM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
As the Holy Land prepares for a papal visit, Ivan Watson speaks to the man preparing to honor the pontiff with his food.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Fri April 25, 2014
Three of the best-loved leaders in the history of the Roman Catholic church will be united this weekend.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Fri April 25, 2014
Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II are to be made into saints this weekend in an unprecedented double papal canonization.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Sun April 27, 2014
October 1962: Pope John XXIII (1881 - 1963) receives an enthusiastic welcome from the crowds at Loreto, during a pilgrimage to pray at the shrines of Loreto and Assisi before the start of the Roman Catholic Ecumenical Council.
Here are five things you need to know about the much-loved "Good Pope."
updated 12:31 PM EDT, Thu March 13, 2014
Not a jot of doctrine has changed in the year since Francis became Pope. But there's more than one way to measure his impact.
updated 10:01 AM EST, Sat February 22, 2014
Pope Francis created 19 new cardinals in a ceremony in the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica -- the first such appointments since he was elected pontiff.
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Thu March 13, 2014
"The spring evening in which Pope Francis was elected is an apt symbol of the beginning of his papacy and the years that will follow," writes a priest.
updated 11:05 AM EST, Fri February 14, 2014
In a gesture towards Valentine's Day, Pope Francis gave his advice on how to have a happy marriage before thousands of couples.
updated 2:12 PM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
A senior Vatican official acknowledged Thursday there is "no excuse" for child sex abuse.
updated 4:10 PM EDT, Wed March 12, 2014
Take a look at Pope Francis' first year in photos with our gallery.
updated 6:43 PM EST, Thu November 7, 2013
It was the embrace that melted hearts worldwide.
updated 5:59 AM EDT, Wed April 3, 2013
On Easter Sunday, Pope Francis kisses and hugs disabled boy lifted up in the crowd.
updated 12:09 PM EDT, Thu April 11, 2013
With the new pope himself a trained scientist, could the timing could be right for a new era of cooperation between the Vatican and science?
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Sat March 16, 2013
Pope Francis is being painted as a humble and simple man, but his past is tinged with controversy.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT