Pope Francis addresses child abuse

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Pope Francis
Pope Francis touches his forehead during his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican October 21, 2015. Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

Pope Francis addressed issues regarding child abuse through a Dec. 28 letter. The letter, released publicly on Monday, urged bishops worldwide to maintain “zero tolerance” of abuses of the youth.

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church wants to make sure that every child is protected from sexual abuse by its clergy. In the letter, the pope points towards injustices to children. These include slave labour, malnutrition, lack of education and sexual exploitation and even abuse by priests.

The pope also decried "the sufferings, the experiences and pain of minors who suffered sexual abuse by priests." In the letter, Pope Francis wrote, “It is a sin that shames us. Persons responsible for the protection of those children destroyed their dignity."

Pope Francis urged bishops to find the courage needed to take all necessary measures so that such crimes will not be repeated. He further urged Catholic leaders to adhere clearly and faithfully to “zero tolerance.”

The pontiff has laid out procedures, requiring removal of bishops if they mishandle investigations on child abuse cases. The pope acknowledged that the Church’s canonical code already allowed for a bishop to be ousted for “grave reasons.”

Since 2004, there have been 3,400 cases of abuse reported. Back in 2001, bishops and religious superiors were required to submit all credible cases of abuse to Rome after they were known to be shuffling pedophile priests from diocese to diocese. Only in 2010 did the Vatican instruct bishops to report credible cases to police where local reporting laws require them to. Pope Francis himself has received different feedbacks about how the Vatican handles the issue.

In a 2014 letter, deaf students from Italy reportedly claimed that they were sexually abused by a priest. The priest was arrested in 2015 and was also charged with raping deaf students at a school in Argentina.

The Catholic Church's reputation has been stained in several countries during the last few decades. Minors come forward to report parish priests or other Catholic clergy that raped or molested them.

In Australia, the Catholic Church is set to lead the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. This will be happening in the coming months as it seeks to explain improvements to its policies.

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