Everything Pope Francis Has Said About Sexual Abuse in the Past Amid Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report

A bombshell grand jury report in Pennsylvania this week detailed horrifying allegations of abuse and a widespread cover-up within the Catholic Church in the state over a seven-decade period.

"What we can say, though, is that despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability," the grand jury wrote in the report. "Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades."

The fallout from the report is still playing out, but a notably absent voice in the responses has been that of Pope Francis. He has yet to respond. A spokesperson from the Vatican told the Daily Beast on Wednesday that it "has no comment at the moment."

But Francis has, in that past, talked about the issue of abuse in the church. In 2014, during a mass with sexual abuse survivors, for instance, he apologized to those who had suffered.

"Before God and his people I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you," he said, according to the Catholic News Service. "And I humbly ask forgiveness. 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 made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves. This led to even greater suffering on the part of those who were abused, and it endangered other minors who were at risk."

pope francis
Pope Francis waves to a crowd in Vatican City, on July 31. A bombshell grand jury report in Pennsylvania this week detailed horrifying allegations of abuse and a widespread cover-up within the Catholic Church in the state over a seven-decade period. Pope Francis has yet to respond. Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

In 2016, he called for harsh punishment for abusers. "We must not tolerate the abuse of minors," he said in a weekly address, according to the National Catholic Reporter. "We must defend minors. And we must severely punish the abusers."

In 2017, the pope also met with the church's sex abuse advisory commission, a panel of experts formed in 2014 charged with advising Francis and the rest of the Catholic Church. After that meeting, the pope admitted the church had not acted quickly enough to protect children.

"The consciousness of the church arrived a bit late, and when the consciousness arrives late, the means to resolve the problem arrive late," Francis said, according to a CBS News report last year. "Perhaps the old practice of moving people around, and not confronting the problem, kept consciences asleep."

He also admitted he had personally made an error in handing down a lighter sentence on a priest. "I was new and I didn't understand these things well, and before two choices I chose the more benevolent one," Francis said at the time, via the CBS News report. "It was the only time I did it, and never again."

But the pope has also criticized victims in the past. Earlier this year, he said victims of a predator priest in Chile had slandered Bishop Juan Barros, who the survivors accused of covering for a pedophile.

"The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I'll speak," Francis said, according to a USA Today report from January. "There is not one shred of proof against him. It's all calumny. Is that clear?"

In May of this year, Francis reportedly changed his tune. A victim told CNN that Francis told him: "I was part of the problem. I caused this, and I apologize to you."

By June, Barros had resigned, although without admitting he knew of the abuses carried out by his mentor, Reverend Fernando Karadima.

Everything Pope Francis Has Said About Sexual Abuse in the Past Amid Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report | U.S.