Pope Urges Pedophile Priests to Surrender Themselves for 'Divine Justice'
Asks clergy memebers involved in pedophilia to turn themself in during Christmas message
Pope Francis has called on all Catholic Priests who have sexually abused children to turn themselves in and prepare for "divine justice."
During his Christmas message in the Vatican's Clementine Hall on Friday, the pope said the issue of pedophile clergy members has "undermined" the credibility of the church.
He acknowledged the ongoing epidemic of pedophilia, allegedly involving hundreds of Catholic Church officials, urging all priests who have molested or raped children to surrender themselves.
"Convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice," Pope Francis advised predatory priests.
The church, Francis vowed, will "never again" cover up abuse by clergy.
"Let it be clear that before these abominations the Church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes," he said, USA Today reports.
"This is no easy task since the guilty are capable of skillfully covering their tracks," he said.
To help bring the predators to justice, the Pope urged those who have been abused to come forward: "The Church asks that people not be silent, but bring it objectively to light, since the greater scandal in this matter is that of cloaking the truth."
According to the Dail Wire, Francis warned that a Judas will "always be present" in the church, but promised that never again would the church fail to be vigilant about weeding such betrayers out, comparing the predators who betrayed their vows to Judas betraying Christ.
"The sins and crimes of consecrated persons are further tainted by infidelity and shame; they disfigure the countenance of the Church and undermine her credibility," he said.
Though the church is currently in a period of darkness, he said, quoting Romans 13:12, it will emerge from these scandals stronger.
"The night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light," he said.
NPR notes that the pope also offered "heartfelt thanks" to members of the media "who were honest and objective and sought to unmask these predators and to make their victims' voices heard."
Francis' strong comments come after a series of much-maligned responses by the church's leadership to revelations of appalling actions by clergy and evidence of widespread cover-ups going back decades — and potentially going all the way to the top.
A flood of accusations in both Chile and the U.S., in particular, have shaken the church to its core, triggering a series of investigations, strong criticism of the Pope's handling of the crises, and prompting him to call for a meeting in February of church leaders to work through plans to prevent further abuses of power by predator priests.
Among the cardinals and bishops of the Curia present for the Pope's address was the dean of the cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, "who has long been blamed for the Vatican’s refusal to acknowledge the depth of the problem during the quarter-century pontificate of St. John Paul II," USA Today reports.
NPR notes that the speech comes a few days after the pope accepted the resignation of Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar, who was accused of sexually abusing a child in the 1990s and was the subject of a 2002 police report but spared any charges by the attorney general.
Despite church authorities being aware of the accusations against him, Salazar was allowed to remain a bishop under undisclosed restrictions.