The Vatican’s New Approach to Child Abuse: Zero Tolerance

January 11, 2017 Abuse and Neglect Attorney
The Vatican
The Vatican


The Catholic Church has a long and rather tragic history when it comes to child sexual abuse. For as long as anyone can remember, many in the church have taken the stance that it is more important to protect the church as an institution, than to protect the individual people inside it. This has resulted in countless priests being “reassigned” to new parishes in the wake of sexual abuse allegations, instead of reported to the authorities.


All of that is changing, however, as Pope Francis has turned the church on it’s head, and demanded a new era of accountability. Although this may seem like a strange topic for our blog, we felt it was relevant to share this information. After all, the decisions made by leaders in the Catholic Church affect people all over the world, including here in Michigan.


The church recently released a copy of a letter that Pope Francis wrote to bishops in the church, addressing the suffering of children who had been sexually assaulted. In the letter, the Pope expressed regret on behalf of the church and begged forgiveness from all of the children who had been harmed and then abandoned in the wake of the crime against them.


Pope Francis referred to what had happened as a sin, and referred also to the church’s “sin of failing to help, the sin of covering up and denial, the sin of the abuse of power.” He went on to openly denounce “the sufferings, the experiences and pain of minors who were abused sexually by priests.” and explained that “It is a sin that shames us.” He also stated that the people responsible for the protection of the abused children “destroyed their dignity.”


Because the Catholic Church has a long history of allegations of sexual abuse by priests and bishops, which were then covered up in an effort to maintain the appearance of holiness, this new approach is considered radical. And for countless people, it is long overdue. For many years people have spoken out about how change is needed in how the church handles crime among its priests, cardinals and bishops. Is this the change they were hoping for?


Also in his letter, Pope Francis  called on the Bishops for “complete commitment to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst.” He went on to ask for help and diligence in ensuring that this doesn’t happen ever again. “Let us find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect in every way the lives of our children, so that such crimes may never be repeated. In this area, let us adhere, clearly and faithfully, to ‘zero tolerance.'”


However, there are a number of people who have claimed that the Pope may talk a good game, but he hasn’t made shown the dedication required to adhere to his own standards. In 2014 a deaf student from Italy made allegations in a letter to the Vatican that they had been sexually assaulted by a priest who worked at the school they attended. The Vatican took no action, and in 2016 the priest was charged with sexual assault by local police when it was discovered that he was raping students.


It remains to be seen whether or not this zero tolerance policy is actually as stringent as it claims to be, or if the promises made are all talk and no action. If indeed the church is revolutionizing their approach to child sexual abuse, can we expect to see an increase in reports of sexual assault in coming years? Only time will tell…

If you or a loved one have been accused of a sex crime, you need to understand that it is a very serious allegation. Whether or not you have done what you are accused of, the police will treat this situation as if you are guilty until they come across evidence to support your innocence. Most sexual assault crimes require little more than claims from the alleged victim as evidence, so they must be handled by experienced defense attorneys who understand exactly how to combat these claims. Call the Kronzek Firm today at 800-576-6035. We are here to help.