Pope Francis asks forgiveness for priests who sexually abused children


(CNN) -- Pope Francis made his strongest condemnation yet of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy on Friday, asking for forgiveness and pledging to impose penalties on "men of the church" who harm children.
"I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests -- quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests -- to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children," the Pope said in remarks quoted by Vatican Radio.
"The church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed," Francis continued.
"On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children."
The pope's new comments, made to a Catholic nongovernmental organization on Friday, represent a shift from his previous statements on sexual abuse.
In an interview with an Italian newspaper in March, Francis struck a defensive tone, saying, "The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that has moved with transparency and responsibility. No one has done more. And yet the church is the only one that has been attacked."
Advocates for victims of sexual abuse slammed the pope's comments, calling it another example of the church prioritizing its reputation over the protection of children.
In late March, Francis appointed an eight-member committee -- a mix of clergy and laypeople, including a sexual abuse survivor -- to advise the church on how to protect children, punish abusers and train church staff.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/11/world/...html?hpt=hp_t2