Pope Francis offered his “heartfelt thanks” in a lengthy speech on Friday to members of the media who helped expose sexual abusers within the ranks of the Catholic clergy.
In his yearly address to members of the Roman Curia, the pope publicly thanked “those media professionals who were honest and objective and sought to unmask these predators and to make their victims’ voices heard.”
“Even if it were to involve a single case of abuse (something itself monstrous), the Church asks that people not be silent but bring it objectively to light, since the greater scandal in this matter is that of cloaking the truth,” Francis said.
The pope himself has come under fire in recent months for a lack of transparency regarding his own conduct in the case of disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, accused of serial homosexual abuse of seminarians, priests, and laypersons for decades.
In late August, the former papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, accused the pope of having rehabilitated McCarrick despite knowing of his abuse.
Cardinal McCarrick enjoyed a “long friendship with Cardinal Bergoglio” and played an “important part” in his recent election, the archbishop claimed in an 11-page affidavit, which led the pope to continue using McCarrick as a trusted aide in the naming of American bishops even after learning of his misdeeds.
“McCarrick was part of a network of bishops promoting homosexuality who exploiting their favor with Pope Francis manipulated episcopal appointments so as to protect themselves from justice and to strengthen the homosexual network in the hierarchy and in the Church at large,” Viganò wrote.
When journalists questioned him about the truth of these and other allegations, the pope refused to answer and has maintained his silence ever since while lashing out at his accuser as an agent of Satan because of his attempts to reveals others’ wrongdoing.
“It is true, we are all sinners, we bishops,” the pope said in September, but the Great Accuser “seeks to unveil sins so that they may be seen, to scandalize the people.”
In his address Friday, Francis praised the “heroic example” of the martyrs and countless good Samaritans but said that their witness cannot “make us overlook the counter-witness and the scandal given by some sons and ministers of the Church.”
The Church has for some time been firmly committed to eliminating the evil of abuse, which cries for vengeance to the Lord, to the God who is always mindful of the suffering experienced by many minors because of clerics and consecrated persons: abuses of power and conscience and sexual abuse.
Comparing abusive priests to King David, the pope said that these men “perform abominable acts yet continue to exercise their ministry as if nothing had happened. They have no fear of God or his judgement, but only of being found out and unmasked.”
“Today too, there are many Davids who, without batting an eye, enter into the web of corruption and betray God, his commandments, their own vocation, the Church, the people of God and the trust of little ones and their families,” he said. “Often behind their boundless amiability, impeccable activity and angelic faces, they shamelessly conceal a vicious wolf ready to devour innocent souls.”
The pope also reiterated the commitment of the Church to root out the evil of sexual abuse.
“Let it be clear that before these abominations the Church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes. The Church will never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case,” said the pope.
“To those who abuse minors I would say this: convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice,” he said.
“Remember the words of Christ: ‘Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea,’” he said.