Pope forms sex abuse commission to protect children - FOX 35 News Orlando

Pope forms sex abuse commission to protect children

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Pope Francis is tackling yet another tough issue that has tormented many Catholics. He's asked 8 top-ranking advisors to find new ways to protect children from pedophile priests.

Vatican experts said Thursday's surprise announcement appeared to have been hastily put together.

The Pope has vowed to make pastoral care his central mission, but was criticized last week, after conferring with Dutch bishops, for failing to meet with victims of clerical sexual abuse. Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley told reporters Francis is creating a new commission made up of lay and religious advisors from all over the world. They will recommend guidelines for protection of children; and new training for priests, seminarians and teachers.

"The commission will be able to advise the Holy Father about protection of children and pastoral care for victims of abuse," O'Malley said.

The announcement is the latest dramatic change of heart in the Vatican, where the scandal of clerical sexual abuse was long dismissed as a uniquely "American problem" that was not really an issue anywhere else. Still, the Chicago-based founder of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, was skeptical. She wants Pope Francis to make public what's in the Vatican's own archives.

"All he would need to do is immediately open up all the records on sex crimes that the Vatican is holding and turn those records over to the police," Barbara Blaine said. "And then make clear once and for all that any bishop or church superior who conceals or covers up sex crimes is going to be fired."

A spokeswoman for Chicago's Cardinal George issued a statement, saying:

"The Archdiocese has policies, guidelines and pastoral outreach programs in place that have educated and trained hundreds of thousands of children and adults on methods to protect minors and has processed background checks on more than 160,000 priests, deacons, religious, lay employees and volunteers."

Catholics in Chicago were among the first anywhere to confront the sexual abuse scandal. More than two decades ago, the late Cardinal Bernardin began responding with new guidelines that, in some cases, fell short of their goal of protecting all children and unmasking all predators. Blaine said that more than 6,000 US priests and former priests have been the subject of credible abuse allegations--about 5% of all priests who served in the U.S. over the past six decades.

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