Pope Francis met for the first time with victims of sexual abuse by the clergy on Monday. Six victims – two each from Ireland, Britain and Germany – attended the pope's morning mass and then spoke with him individually. During mass, the pope delivered a homily that condemned the scandal that began under Pope John Paul II and tarnished the reputation of the Roman Catholic Church.
"I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons," the pope said in his homily, which he delivered in Spanish. He held Church leaders accountable. "I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse," he said.
In May, the pope compared the clergy sex abuse scandal to a satanic mass. He asked forgiveness from the victims, and he vowed zero tolerance moving forward. Two months earlier, he had drawn criticism for saying that the Roman Catholic Church had used greater “transparency and responsibility” to approach the scandal than other public institutions had.
The half-dozen victims of childhood sex abuse, three of whom were women and three men, each met with the pope for about half an hour at his Vatican residence. The Vatican has not released their names, but they are all in their 30s or 40s, suggesting that their abuses first occurred at least 15 or 20 years ago.
One of the victims who met with the pope, Marie Kane, 43, spoke with the Irish Independent. Kane was abused by a priest in Dublin, and said that the meeting with the pope was "pretty amazing." She said she told Francis that the bishops who hid the abuses need to be removed, and that the church must earn greater accounability.
Certain victims groups have criticized the pope's actions as an empty publicity ploy. “Over the past 2000 years, two popes have met with about two dozen clergy sex abuse victims. Very little has changed,” Mary Caplan of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said in a statement to NBC News. "A dozen popes could meet with 100 victims, and very little will change. These meetings are public relations coups for the Vatican and a distracting placebo for others.”
Over the past 10 years, according to the Vatican, 3,420 credible accusations of sexual abuse by priests have been filed. 824 clerics have been defrocked. Pope Benedict, Pope Francis' predecessor, met several times with abuse victims starting in 2008.
Last month, the highest-ranking Vatican official to be investigated in sex abuse claims was defrocked. Archbishop Josef Wesolowski of Poland was stripped by the Vatican of his authority over charges of sex abuse in the Dominican Republic.
So what do you think? Has Pope Francis done enough for sexual abuse victims? Vote and comment below.
Has Pope Francis done enough for sexual abuse victims?