Pope cautions over ‘interpretation’ of sexual abuse report

The Times of Israel

Pope Francis is urging people to be cautious in the way they interpret the report released in October about child sexual abuse by French Catholic clergy.

The “historical situation” must be interpreted by the standards of the time, Francis says.

The October report from an independent commission of inquiry confirmed extensive sexual abuse of minors by priests in France. The abuse dated from the 1950s to 2020.

“When we do this kind of study, we must be attentive to the interpretation we make of it,” Francis (84) told reporters onboard his flight back from a trip to Greece.

“Abuse 100 years ago, 70 years ago, was brutality. But the way it was experienced is not the same as today.

“For example, in the case of abuse in the church, the attitude was to cover it up – an attitude that unfortunately still exists today in a large number of families.”

Although Francis says the report’s contents are shameful and that he will be discussing it with French bishops when they visited him later this month, Francis admits he had not read it yet.

Francois Devaux, head of a victims’ association in France says Francis’s “distressing” lack of interest in the French inquiry is “will show everyone that the pope is at the heart of the problem,”.

In his opinion, Francis’s comments show “ignorance, stupidity and denial”.

During the flight, Francis also condemned the “injustice” surrounding the resignation of Michel Aupetit, archbishop of Paris.

Aupetit, 70,resigned after media reports of an intimate relationship with a woman.

He had categorically denied the report, but admitted to having “had ambiguous behaviour with a person he was very close to”.

It was “not a loving relationship”, nor sexual, he emphasised.

“When the gossip grows, grows, grows and takes away the reputation of a person, that man will not be able to govern… and that is an injustice,” Francis said.

“This is why I accepted Aupetit’s resignation, not on the altar of truth, but on the altar of hypocrisy.

“I ask myself, what did Aupetit do that was so serious he had to resign? If we don’t know the accusation, we cannot condemn,” Francis said.

He urged journalists to investigate the truth of the story.

The rumours and gossip leading to Aupetit’s resignation are baseless – and his public condemnation is a sin, Francis said.

In a statement last week, when the pope accepted his offer of resignation, Aupetit said he wanted to “protect the diocese from the division that always provokes suspicion and the loss of confidence”.


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