Pope's first words on clerical sexual abuse leave victims unimpressed

Victims' advocates are said to be unimpressed after Pope Francis called for the Catholic Church to act “with determination” against clergy sex abuse cases.

The pope pushed for decisive action during a meeting with the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, the Vatican said in a statement.

“The Holy Father recommended that the congregation continue the line sought by Benedict XVI, to act with determination in regard to cases of sexual abuse,” the Vatican said.

“Once again, as have happened hundreds of times already, a top Catholic official says he’s asking another top Catholic official to take action about paedophile priests and complicit bishops,” said Barbara Dorris, an official of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a US-based organisation.

Francis cited measures to protect minors, help victims of sexual violence and necessary action against perpetrators, and emphasise that drafting and implementing directives by bishop conferences around the world is important to the credibility of the church.

US victims of clergy abuse have demanded swift and bold actions from the new Jesuit pontiff.

“Big deal. Actions speak louder than words. And one of the first actions Pope Francis took was to visit perhaps the most high-profile corrupt prelate on the planet, Cardinal Bernard Law, who remains a powerful church official despite having been drummed out of Boston for hiding and enabling crimes by hundreds of child molesting clerics,” Ms Dorris said in a statement.

The clergy child abuse scandals in many countries have drained morale and finances from the church, driving countless Catholics away, especially in Western Europe.

Some dioceses have had to close parishes and take other drastic actions after paying out millions for counselling and other compensation to victims in cases settled in and out of court.

The Vatican’s brief announcement about Francis’ meeting Friday with the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – the office that shapes and enforces policy on what to do about any abuse allegations and what happens to the abusers – depicted Francis as urging assertive action to protect minors.

“The Holy Father in a special way urged that the Congregation, following the line sought by Benedict XVI, act decisively in sex abuse cases, above all promoting measures to protect minors, assistance for all those who in the past suffered such violence, necessary measures against the guilty,” the statement said of Francis’ meeting with Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller.

The Vatican quoted Francis as saying abuse victims were always present “in his attention and in his prayers.”

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