VATICAN CITY – The Holy See called on Thursday the abuses committed by priests against minors described in a report by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court “criminal” and said that “responsibility” for them must be taken by those who committed the acts and those clergy members who permitted or enabled them.
Expressing “shame and sorrow” about the grand jury report on the rape and molestation of children by clergy members in six Pennsylvania dioceses over decades, the Vatican called the abuse “criminally and morally reprehensible.”
“The Holy See treats with great seriousness the work of the Investigating Grand Jury of Pennsylvania and the lengthy Interim Report it has produced. The Holy See condemns unequivocally the sexual abuse of minors,” Burke said.
“The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible,” Burke said. “Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith. The Church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur.”
But he continued, noting that “By finding almost no cases after 2002, the Grand Jury’s conclusions are consistent with previous studies showing that Catholic Church reforms in the United States drastically reduced the incidence of clergy child abuse.”
Burke also said that the Vatican “encourages continued reform and vigilance at all levels of the Catholic Church, to help ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults from harm.”
He also said that the victims and others should know that Pope Francis is “on their side”
According to the grand jury report, credible accusations have been made against more than 300 “predator priests,” who sexually abusing more than 1,000 minors.
The grand jury also found that the Church covered up the crimes, noting that its methods constituted “a playbook for concealing the truth” from the FBI after the bureau had discovered a series of coverup practices described in diocese files.
The 1,356-page report also said that both boys and girls were abused by the priests and at the time of the abuse the victims included both teenagers and pre-teens.
The report also found, however, that “almost every instance of abuse ... is too old to be prosecuted.”