Pope Francis on cases of abuse in Portugal: "News may have exaggerated the situation"

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Pope Francis spoke about Portugal's cases of abuse during his in-flight press conference coming back from World Youth Day. A Portuguese journalist asked him about the report of 512 testimonies pointing to almost 5,000 victims of abuse. They are believed to have taken place between 1950 and 2022. An independent commission set up by the Portuguese Bishops' Conference investigated these cases.  

Journalist, Observador
I would like to ask you about child abuse in the Church in Portugal. In February of this year, a report was published on the reality of abuse in Portugal. Almost 5,000 children have been victims in the last decades. I ask you: Have you read, do you know this report that has been delivered to the bishops? And also, what do you think should happen to the bishops who have known about cases of abuse and have not communicated them to the authorities?

As you all know, in a private setting, I received a group of people who were abused. As I always do in these cases, we talked about this plague, this tremendous plague. In the Church, we used to follow more or less the same behavior as we do now in families and neighborhoods: we cover up...We think that 42 percent of abuse happens in families or neighborhoods. We still have to mature and help uncover these things. Since the Boston scandal, the Church became aware that we could not go down random paths, but had to take the bull by the horns. Two and a half years ago, there was a meeting of the presidents of the bishops' conferences, where official statistics on abuse were also given. And it is serious. The situation is very serious. In the Church, there is a phrase that we use all the time: zero tolerance. Zero tolerance. And the priests who, in some way, have not taken their responsibility have to take responsibility for this irresponsibility...It's a very harsh world of abuse, and because of that, I urge us to be very open about all of this. 

Regarding the question about how the process is going in the Portuguese Church: it is going well. It is going well and calmly. Seriousness is being pursued in abuse case. The numbers sometimes end up being exaggerated a bit because of the comments we always like to make. But the reality is that it is going well and that gives me some peace of mind.

I would like to touch on one point and I would like to ask you journalists to work together on this. Do you have a phone today? A phone. Well, on any of these phones, for a fee and with a password, you have access to child sexual abuse. This comes into our homes and child sexual abuse is filmed live. Where is it being filmed? Who are the culprits? This is one of the most serious plagues in the whole world (...) but I want to point this out because sometimes we don't realize that things are so extreme. When you use a child to make a spectacle of abuse, it draws attention. Abuse is like 'eating' the victim, right? Or worse, hurting them and leaving them alive. Talking to abuse survivors is a very painful experience, and it's good for me, not because I like to hear it, but because it helps me take charge of this drama. That is, to your question I would simply say what I have said: the process is going well, I am informed about how things are going. The news may have exaggerated the situation, but things are going well as far as that goes. But also, with that, I say, in some way, help. Help so that all types of abuse can be addressed. Sexual abuse is not the only one. There are also other kinds of abuse that cry out to Heaven: child labor abuse, the abuse of minors working and women abuse, no? Even today, in many countries, they still perform surgery on little girls—they remove their clitoris. And that's today, and it's done with a razor, and goodbye...Cruelty...And the abuse of labor, that is within sexual abuse, which is serious. And all this: there is a culture of abuse that humanity needs to review and convert.


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