Pressure is mounting on Pope Francis to resign after a grand jury report in Pennsylvania found that possibly more than 1,000 children in six dioceses had been sexually abused by about 300 priests or higher ranking officials.
On top of that, the report said that bishops and other top church officials had tried to contain the public outcry and liability by covering up the crimes, which Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro claimed “went all the way to the Vatican.”
But the report, and the Vatican’s subsequent tepid response, has exposed a split within the Holy See which threatens to bring down Pope Francis just five years after he replaced Pope Benedict XVI.
Several days after the news broke and dominated U.S. headlines, the Vatican released a statement.
Using uncharacteristically strong language for the Vatican, even on such serious issues as child abuse, the Holy See spokesman said to victims that “the pope is on their side.”
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the incidents of abuse graphically documented in the grand jury report were “betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith.”
“The church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur,” he said.
But for many Catholics and long-time Vatican observers, the acknowledgment of the criminal behavior was too little, too late.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group that describes itself as agnostics and atheists (including former Catholics) are running a full-page ad later this week in The New York Times urging people to leave the Church.
“Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all,” the ad says. “Six dioceses, three hundred predatory priests, a staggering 1,000-plus victims.
“No bishops indicted. The pope’s response? All words, no action — except, insultingly, to call on the faithful to ‘pray and fast.”
The advert in the Times comes after Francis was taken to task on Sunday by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former Vatican ambassador to the U.S.
Read more: Fox News