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Pope Francis vows to be very tough on pedophile priests

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 26th, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In spite of his humble and merciful nature, Pope Francis will not show leniency towards pedophile priests. The number of clerics defrocked by the Vatican was likely to have fallen to about 100 in 2013 from about 125 in 2012, Monsignor Charles Scicluna; the most authoritative Catholic official on the Church's abuse crisis says that truth and justice are more important than protecting the Church.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Scicluna vowed that Francis will have zero tolerance for those who have abused their priestly powers, reminding that the abuse crisis was declared by the pope as "the shame of the Church" last week.

"I have met with Francis and he has expressed great determination to continue on the line of his predecessors," Scicluna said.

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"His gospel of mercy is very important but it is not cheap mercy. It has to respect the truth and the demands of justice," Scicluna, who served in the Vatican for 17 years before he was named an auxiliary bishop in his native Malta in 2012, said.

Elected last March, Pope Francis set up a commission of experts to address the sexual abuse of children within the church, in his first major step to tackle a crisis that has plagued it for two decades.

The commission will try to find ways in order to better screen priests, protect minors and help victims in the face of charges that the Vatican didn't do enough to guard the vulnerable or make amends.

Scicluna served as the Vatican's expert last week in Geneva when United Nations child protection experts pushed Holy See delegates to reveal the scope of the decades-long sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests.

Scicluna says that the experience was very helpful for the Church. "We have a great responsibility to our people . I think it was a blessing that we had this meeting (in Geneva) before the commission is set up," he said.

He confirmed the published Vatican records show that in 2011 the number of priests defrocked hit a recent peak of some 260.

He said the rise was due to "contingent backlog problems with some historical cases" and that he expected the numbers were "stabilizing" at about 100 in 2013.

The numbers for most years are made up of about 50 percent by priests who were defrocked. The rest were those who had asked to leave the priesthood after admitting their crimes.

"Dismissal is imposed and dispensation presupposes the request of the priest but the effect is the same," he said.

The Church has had to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation in sexual abuse cases worldwide, bankrupting a string of dioceses. The pope said it was right last week to pay damages to victims.

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