Pope Francis lashed out at members of Portugal’s Catholic hierarchy for their negligence of clergy sexual abuse in Portugal. He said the sexual scandal has marred the Catholic Church and pushed the faithful away.
The scandal, which was brought to light by courageous survivors and a report, reveals a long-standing pattern of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church’s ranks in Portugal. Revelations of such heinous acts have ignited a fierce public outcry, with citizens demanding justice and accountability.
The Pope said many clergy and nuns in countries with once-thriving Catholic parishes feel weary about their vocations because the faithful are increasingly detached from their faith. “It is often accentuated by the disappointment and anger with which some people view the church, at times to our poor witness and the scandals that have marred her face and call us to a humble and ongoing purification starting with the anguished cry of the victims, who must always be accepted and listened to.”
Bishop Jose Ornelas, the head of the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference promised Pope Francis to devote “our special attention to the protection of the welfare of children and the undertaking to protect them from all kinds of abuse”. The Bishops’ Conference said the pope’s meeting with abuse survivors was evidence of the path of reconciliation that the Portuguese church has been following in this area. It said they are committed to putting the victims first and working together with victims on reparations and their recovery.
The Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal Manuel Clemente, said he was fully committed to addressing the issue. “But many groups here representing those victims say that they are angered and deeply frustrated by how the church has been dealing with or rather fails to deal with the distress that has been felt by those victims.”
The extent of the scandal is being closely scrutinized by the global Catholic community, which has long struggled with numerous sexual abuse allegations involving clergy members worldwide. The systematic abuse has marred the reputation of the Catholic Church, leading to widespread outrage and loss of faith in its leadership.