Pope Francis says he has taken it on himself to rid the Catholic Church of sexual abuse, telling CNN’s partner channel CNN Portugal that he was “responsible that it doesn’t happen anymore.”
In an exclusive, wide-ranging interview in Rome last month, the Pontiff said the church had “zero tolerance” for abuse and said that “a priest cannot remain a priest if he is an abuser.”
The church’s response to sex abuse scandals has become one of the defining themes of Francis’ time as Pope, and he told CNN Portugal that every case of abuse within the church “hurts” him.Multiple reports detailing decades of sexual abuse, systemic failures and cover-ups across multiple countries have been released since Francis became the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics in 2013. While he was criticized for some of his actions — such as when he defended a Chilean bishop accused of covering up a sex scandal in 2018, a decision he later described as a “grave error” — he has since taken a firm stance on the issues and introduced some reforms.
In 2019, he abolished Vatican secrecy rules for cases of sexual abuse and put in place new rules that made it mandatory for the first time for all dioceses to set up systems for reporting abuse and cover-ups.
Two years later, he issued the most extensive revision to Catholic Church law in four decades, insisting that bishops take action against clerics who abuse minors and vulnerable adults. The rules also demanded action against priests who commit fraud or attempt to ordain women.
Addressing the topic, Francis said he didn’t believe celibacy played a role in causing the abuse.
“I don’t deny the abuse. Even if it was only one [case], it is monstrous. Because you, priest, you, nun, have to take that boy, that girl to God and with this, you destroy their lives. It’s monstrous. It is destroying lives. And then they come to you with questions. Could it be that celibacy [is to blame]? It’s not about celibacy,” he said. (CNN)