Pope Francis was criticized this summer for waffling on plans to put child abusers on trial within the Catholic Church, as well as those who facilitated abuse with cover ups. Instead, he strengthened the rules agains sexually abusing children that already existed, which he reminded bishops about one more time for the new year.
The Associated Press reports that the Vatican released a letter on Monday that the Pope sent to bishops on December 28, outlining the suffering of children in their domain, such as: child labor, malnutrition, access to education and, of course, sexual abuse. More specifically, sexual abuse committed by priests. Pope Francis wrote of the Church’s long history of abuse scandals, saying, “It is a sin that shames us. Persons responsible for the protection of those children destroyed their dignity.”
Expressing the church’s “regret,” and begging forgiveness, the pope denounced 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.”
Francis also asked bishops for “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,” the pope said. “In this area, let us adhere, clearly and faithfully, to ‘zero tolerance.’”
Despite these pleas, Pope Francis did appoint Bishop Juan Barros to Osorno, Chile, in 2015. Barros allegedly protected Father Fernando Karadima, who was accused of sexually abusing multiple children, according to Reuters. Karadima was never prosecuted, though a judge ruled the accusations were valid, as the statute of limitations had passed. In 2011, the Vatican sentenced Karadima to “a life of prayer and penitence.”