Pope Francis has branded sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests a “monstrosity” and pledged action against perpetrators and bishops who protected them.
The pope made the comments in the foreword of a new book titled Father, I Forgive You: Abused But Not Broken, written by Swiss man Daniel Pittet, who was first raped by a priest when he was eight years old.
Pope Francis, whose repeated promises of zero tolerance have been criticised by victims who say the Vatican needs to do much more, called sexual abuse “an absolute monstrosity, a terrible sin that contradicts everything that the Church teaches”.
The foreword was published on Wednesday by the German daily Bild.
The pope said the fate of abused children weighed on his soul, especially those who had taken their own lives.
“We will counter those priests who betrayed their calling with the most strenuous measures. This also applies to the bishops and cardinals who protected these priests – as happened repeatedly in the past,” he wrote.
Church sexual abuse broke into the open in the United States with reports of cases in Louisiana in 1984, and exploded in 2002, when journalists in Boston found that bishops had systematically moved abusers to new posts instead of defrocking them.
Thousands of cases have come to light around the world as investigations have encouraged long-silent victims to go public, shattering the Church’s reputation. More than $2bn has been paid in compensation.