In a long and highly unusual letter sent to US bishops on Thursday as they embarked on a week-long retreat near Chicago, Francis said the handling of the scandal showed the urgent need for a new management method and mindset within the Roman Catholic Church.
“God’s faithful people and the Church’s mission continue to suffer greatly as a result of abuses of power and conscience and sexual abuse, and the poor way that they were handled,” the pope wrote, Presstv Reported.
“The Church’s credibility has been seriously undercut and diminished by these sins and crimes, but even more by the efforts made to deny or conceal them,” Francis said.
“The hurt caused by these sins and crimes has also deeply affected the communion of bishops, and generated not the sort of healthy and necessary disagreements and tensions found in any living body, but rather division and dispersion,” he added.
US bishops had “concentrated more on pointing fingers than on seeking paths of reconciliation,” he added.
Pope Francis has summoned the heads of some 110 national Catholic bishops’ conferences and dozens of experts and leaders of religious orders to the Vatican on February 21-24 for an extraordinary gathering dedicated to the now global crisis.
Victims of clergy sexual abuse accuse Francis, who became pontiff in 2013, of responding much too slowly to the sex scandals, of failing to empathize with the victims and of blindly believing the word of his fellow clergy.
In July, the Pope accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, one of the US Church’s most prominent figures, following allegations he had sexually abused a 16-year-old boy.
The increased public spotlight on the Church comes at a time when Church officials are facing ever more pressure from law enforcement to be more forthcoming.
The Catholic Church is still reeling after the release of a probe in Pennsylvania that found over 300 Catholic priests in that state had sexually abused at least 1,000 children over a 70-year period, crimes that were systematically covered up by bishops.
Similar patterns of abuse have since emerged at dioceses around the globe, undermining the Church’s moral authority and depleting its finances as it paid out billions of dollars in settlements.