A spokesman has issued the Vatican’s first official response to a grand jury report that detailed the extent of sexual crimes against children by priests and other clergy members in six Pennsylvania dioceses.
“There are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow,” Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said in a statement.
“The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible. Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith. The Church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur.”
“The Holy Father understands well how much these crimes can shake the faith and spirit of believers and reiterates the call to make every effort to create a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the Church and in all of society,” the statement continues.
“Victims should know that the Pope is on their side. Those who have suffered are his priority, and the Church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent.”
The grand jury said it reviewed half a million pages of internal diocesan documents that contained credible allegations against over 300 “predator priests.” It said all of the claims were brushed aside by church leaders who “preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all.”
The grand jury said more than 1,000 victims were identifiable from church records, but the real number is likely in the thousands because of records that were lost and children who were afraid to come forward.