Pope Francis directed the Vatican on Friday to act decisively on clergy sex abuse cases and take measures against pedophile priests, saying the Catholic Church's "credibility" was on the line. The announcement was quickly dismissed by victims' advocates as just more talk.
Clergy abuse victims have called for swift and bold action from Francis as soon as he was elected pope last month. Yet in his homeland, Roman Catholic activists had characterized him as being slow to act against such abuse in his years heading the Argentine church.
Friday's development left victims' advocates unimpressed.
"Once again, has have happened hundreds of times already, a top Catholic official says he's asking another top Catholic official to take action about pedophile priests and complicit bishops," said Barbara Dorris, an official of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a U.S.-based organization.
"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," 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 counseling and other compensation to victims in cases settled in and out of court.
The Vatican's brief announcement about Francis's 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."