The Vatican expressed "shame and sorrow", in its first response to a damning report by a USA grand jury on sexual abuse of children by priests in Pennsylvania, with Pope Francis saying that he is on the side of victims.
In a long statement that broke the Vatican's silence over a damning US grand jury report that has shaken the American Church, spokesman Greg Burke said the Holy See was taking the report "with great seriousness".
But Burke also noted that most of the abuse accusations detailed in the grand jury's report occurred before 2002, when the US Catholic bishops adopted new policies created to inform law enforcement of accusations and quickly remove accused clergy from office.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said "those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and faith" and that Pope Francis is on the side of the victims, AP reported.
"The Diocese of Erie will not shroud abusers in secrecy-no matter who they are or how long ago the abuse occurred", Erie Bishop Lawrence Persico said.
Pope Francis himself wasn't quoted in the statement, and there was no mention of demands in the United States among some Catholics for the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington. The probe found that at least 1,000 children had been abused at the hands of Catholic clergy members, dating back to the 1940s.
Cardinal Wuerl "presided over 32 accused priests during his 18 years at the Pittsburgh diocese", CBS News noted.
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Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a press conference yesterday the abuse "touched every diocese and it is horrifying" and "the cover-up was sophisticated" with the shocking details hidden away in a "secret archive".
The report, released Tuesday, not only detailed horrific stories of abuse - but unveiled a systematic coverup by church leaders, "like a playbook for concealing the truth". The report about clergy who raped and molested children in six dioceses was made public Tuesday. "Many, including some named in this report, have been promoted".
"I hope what's contained in the grand jury report is going to provide an impetus for legislators to say, 'OK we do need to find justice for the victims here, '" said Pennsylvania Representative Michael Schlossberg.
Another survivor, Sean Dougherty, 48, said he believes he'd been "groomed" for abuse by the church at a young age.
Special agents from the F.B.I.'s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime reviewed the collected evidence and identified a series of practices that were used regularly to cover up reports of abuse: "Avoid scandal".
Pope Francis has compared sex abuse by priests to participating in a "Satanic Mass", but he has also been accused of being too soft on paedophiles, extending to them a general policy of mercy he is promoting in the church.