ROME (AP) — Pope Francis told members of three religious orders Thursday that they must have “zero tolerance” for sexual abusers in their ranks and that they must report them to protect others.
Francis pleaded with them not to cover up the “reality” of clergy sexual abuse by transferring rapists to other countries.
“We are priests to bring people to Jesus, not to devour people with our lust,” Francis said. “And the abuser destroys, devours the abused with his lust. Zero tolerance,” Francis said.
Francis in 2019 passed a new church law requiring priests and nuns to report abuse to church authorities, though not to police. It was his latest effort to address a problem that has afflicted the church for decades and undermined its credibility.
Religious orders have had some of the worst records, in part because their diffuse structure outside the diocesan hierarchy has enabled abusers to easily move to different countries rather than face justice at home.
Francis called out the practice, telling the superiors: “You don’t resolve this with a transfer, ‘Ah from this continent I’ll send him to another.’ No,” Francis said.
Francis was meeting with representatives of the Order of the Mother of God, the Basilians of San Giosafat and the Congregation of Mission.
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