POPE Francis has criticised the approach of US bishops to abuse scandals, claiming it has ‘seriously undercut and diminished’ the Church’s credibility.
In a letter to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the pontiff said attempts to cover up scandals only exacerbated matters.
It comes as US bishops gathered at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois on Wednesday for a seven-day spiritual retreat.
“The Church’s credibility has been seriously undercut and diminished by these sins and crimes, but even more by the efforts made to deny or conceal them,” wrote the Pope.
“This has led to a growing sense of uncertainty, distrust and vulnerability among the faithful.
“As we know, the mentality that would cover things up, far from helping to resolve conflicts, enabled them to fester and cause even greater harm to the network of relationships that today we are called to heal and restore.”
The Pope added that the loss of credibility had raised questions about the how the Church was managed.
'Power and money'
He called for a new approach to help reweave a ‘living fabric [that] has come undone’.
“This requires not only a new approach to management, but also a change in our mind-set (metanoia), our way of praying, our handling of power and money, our exercise of authority and our way of relating to one another and to the world around us.” He wrote.
He urged the bishops to “abandon a modus operandi of disparaging, discrediting, playing the victim or the scold in our relationships, and instead to make room for the gentle breeze that the Gospel alone can offer”.
In August, a US Grand Jury report alleged more than 300 priests in Pennsylvania had abused children over a period of 70 years.
The report found that victims “were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by Church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all”.
Meanwhile in December, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan accused the Church in the state of failing to disclose the identities of at least 500 priests accused of abuse.
Bishops from around the world will gather at the Vatican on February 21-24 for a summit to address the problem of clerical sexual abuse.