Returning to Rome from World Youth Day in Panama, Pope Francis downplayed the expectations for an upcoming bishops’ meeting in Rome on the church’s clergy sex abuse scandal.
“I perceived inflated expectations; We have to deflate expectations,” Francis told reporters Sunday evening on the papal plane.
The Pope’s council of cardinal advisers suggested the summit, according to the Francis, because “some bishops didn’t understand well, or didn’t know what to do” about the sex abuse crisis.
The goal, he explained, is to make bishops aware of the problem and to share roles and responsibilities, a set of protocols, on the handling by bishops and archbishops.
“We saw that some bishops didn’t understand well, or didn’t know what to do or they did something good or something wrong. We felt the responsibility of giving them a “catechesis” (teaching) on this problem to the bishops’ conferences.
“I regularly receive people who have been abused. I remember one – 40 years old – who was unable to pray. Terrible, the suffering is terrible. So, firstly, that they may be aware of this.”
“That is the main thing but before thinking about what should be done, they first must be aware. Then, there will be prayer, there will be some testimony so that they may be made aware, and some penitential liturgy, to ask forgiveness for the whole church.”
But Pope Francis also said the problem of sexual abuse of children is not going away because it’s a “human problem.”
“It is a human tragedy that we must be made aware of. We too, by resolving the problems in the church but by being aware, will help to resolve it.”
Pope not taking sides on Venezuela, afraid of ‘bloodbath’
Pope Francis also told reporters that he is not taking sides on the Venezuela crisis because, as a pastor, it would be an “imprudence” that could “do harm.”
“I support the entire Venezuelan people that is suffering. If I were to enter and say do this to those countries, or to other countries, I would put myself in a role that I do not know. It would be a pastoral imprudence on my part, and would do damage.
“To get them to agree is not enough. (It requires) a just and peaceful solution. I am terrified of a bloodbath. And here I ask something great of those who can help to resolve the problem. The problem of violence frightens me.”
No widespread exceptions to clergy celibacy
Pope Francis took a conservative position on celibacy, saying “celibacy is a gift to the church.” He explained there could be very rare exceptions in faraway places, like some islands in the Pacific.
“There could only be a possibility in these far, far away places, I think about the islands in the Pacific, but it’s something to think about, when there’s a pastoral need, there the shepherd has to think about the faithful.”
Why young Catholics are leaving the church
“There are many reasons, some are personal. But the most general, I think, the first is the lack of good example from Christians, of the priests, of the bishops, I will not say of the Pope’s because it’s too much (laughs), but also the lack of good example, for example.
“… They feel orphaned, and where there are orphans I think – I have spoke about shepherds but also there is the problem of Christians, the Catholic hypocrites, who go to Mass every Sunday but they don’t pay employment taxes, they hire without contract, they exploit people, and after that they go to the Caribbean – to take holidays, here is the exploitation of the people. They say they are Catholic, they go every Sunday to Mass, but, if you do this, (be hypocritical) you give a bad example and this, in my opinion, causes people to distance themselves from the Church.”
Sex education needed in schools
Pope Francis said sex education for youth is needed in schools. “Sex is a gift from God,” Francis said. “It’s not the boogieman.” The Pontiff explained that sex education should begin in the home and extend to the classroom.
“There needs to be sex education for youth. Ideally it should start at home, with the parents. It’s not always possible because there are many family situations. Or because they don’t know how to do it. Schools are there to supplement that; if not any ideology will fill that void.”
Pope on abortion, mercy for both woman and unborn child
Pope Francis spoke about mercy for both the woman and the unborn child when asked about abortion.
“I tell them their child is in heaven, talk to them. I tell them to sing them a lullaby, the lullaby that they had never been able to sing,” said Francis.
CNN’s Daniel Burke contributed to this story.