Pope Tells Seminarians to Report Abuse ‘Immediately’

Francis met with a group of Italian seminarians in the Vatican’s St. Clementine Hall Oct. 13.

Pope Francis addresses seminarians from the northern Italian region of Lombardy Oct. 13.
Pope Francis addresses seminarians from the northern Italian region of Lombardy Oct. 13. (photo: Servizio Fotografico -- Vatican Media/CNA)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis told a group of Italian seminarians to report immediately to their bishop if they ever see or suspect any kind abuse, sexual or otherwise, on the part of a priest.

“On this point, speak clearly,” the Pope told the students from Lombardy last weekend.

“If you see something like [abuse], [go] immediately to the bishop, to help that abusive brother — immediately to the bishop.”

The Pope met the group in the Vatican’s St. Clementine Hall Oct. 13. The text of the lengthy question-and-answer session was released by the Vatican Oct. 16. During the meeting, he answered a question about scandals in the Church and how to help Catholics to not lose hope despite the “poverty of its ministers.”

“Scandal wounds. We must be clear: On this point, do not yield. To scandals, no. Especially when the scandals hurt little ones,” he said, emphasizing that though statistics show abuse by priests or other clerics to be a small percentage of total cases in society, it is not a reason to ignore the issue.

“No. Because even if it was just one priest, this is a monstrosity,” he underlined.

Pope Francis also spoke about other “scandals” brought about by the public sins of priests, condemning worldliness in particular, and giving the example of a priest who is polite and well-liked but never seen praying, going to the hospital to visit the sick or performing works of mercy.

For a priest to scandalize the People of God “is very bad,” he said.

The Pope went on to say that in his home country of Argentina, the people are not easily scandalized, but take action, even being able “to forgive a poor priest who has a double life with a woman and does not know how to solve it, saying: ‘Ah, poor man; let’s help him ...’ but do not condemn immediately.”

“The people have great wisdom,” the Pope said, and he urged the seminarians to always condemn scandal when they see it, going to the bishop or even directly to the brother priest to say: “Look, you are scandalizing people with this [behavior].”

Horace Vernet, “The Angel of Death,” 1851

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Francisco de Zurbarán, “The Family of the Virgin,” ca. 1650

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