VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has admitted that the Catholic Church waited too long before taking reports of clergy sexual abuse seriously, suggesting that the former practice of moving priests accused of abuse to new ministries instead of reporting them to authorities kept the church numb to the scope of the situation.
In his first formal meeting Sept. 21 with the now three-year-old Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, the pontiff also called "prophetic" the men and women who urged the church for decades to face the problem.
"I know it has not been easy to start this work," the pope told the members of the commission in off-the-cuff remarks notable for their frankness. "You have had to swim against the current because there is a reality: the church has taken consciousness about these crimes in a delayed manner."
"When the consciousness is delayed, the means for resolving the problem are delayed," said Francis. "I am aware of this difficulty. But it is a reality. I’ll say it so: We have come to this late."
"Maybe the old practice of moving people around, of not facing the problem, kept our consciousness asleep," the pope suggested. "Thanks to God, the Lord sent prophetic men and women in the church … who got others involved and began this work to face the problem head-on."