April 15, 2013

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis reaffirmed the importance of responding decisively to the problem of the sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy and called on the Vatican office dealing with suspected cases to continue carrying out its mandate.

During an April 5 meeting with Archbishop Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the pope discussed the office's various responsibilities.

However, he made a particular point of highlighting its work to counter clerical sexual abuse, telling Muller he wanted the congregation to continue with the policies of retired Pope Benedict XVI.

The pope also asked Muller "to act decisively concerning cases of sexual abuse," the Vatican said in a written statement released after the meeting.

The pope also assured victims that they had a special place in his heart and prayers.

As archbishop of Buenos Aires, the future pope had said his archdiocese had been very attentive to the problem and "rigorous" in its screening and selection of candidates for the priesthood and religious life.

Sex abusers suffer from a "perversion of a psychological kind" that is not caused by or directly linked to celibacy, he said in a book-length series of interviews. The book, Pope Francis: Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio, was written by Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti.

He said the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires had been very "rigorous for many years already" in selecting candidates for the priesthood, noting how only about 40 per cent of candidates were actually admitted into the priesthood.

He also described how candidates undergo in-depth psychiatric tests to look for different forms of deviant tendencies, including "megalomaniacal, dishonest and criminal" tendencies.

In On Heaven and Earth, a 2010 book of conversations with a Buenos Aires rabbi, the then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio said, when it is discovered that a priest has engaged in such behaviour, it is imperative that no one "look the other way."

"One cannot be in a position of power and destroy the life of another person."

The proper action to take against an abuser, he said, would be to prohibit him from exercising his ministry and begin a canonical process in the diocese.