Abuse Victims Heartbroken as Pope Calls Accusers 'Friends of the Devil'
Francis links those who accuse the Catholic Church to the Devil
Victims of clerical abuse have hit out at Pope Francis after he branded those who accuse the Catholic Church as "friends and relatives of the Devil."
Speaking in Benevento, Southern Italy during a speech to pilgrims, the pope said the “fashion” today is to criticize the Church, and those who do so are "without love."
Describing how Saint Padre Pio loved the Church as she was, the pope said that when people make accusations against clergy members, their actions do not come from God but from the devil.
“Because the Church is holy, she is the Bride of Christ, but we, the children of the Church, are all sinners – some big ones!” the Pope Francis said on the eve of the Vatican summit on clerical sex abuse.
“He who loves the Church knows how to forgive because he knows that he himself is a sinner and is in need of God’s forgiveness.
"He knows how to arrange things because the Lord wants to arrange things well but always with forgiveness.”
One cannot “live an entire life accusing, accusing, accusing the Church,” the pope continued.
“Whose is the office of the accuser! The devil!
"And those who spend their life accusing, accusing, accusing, are – I will not say children because the devil does not have any – but friends, cousins, relatives of the devil.”
The pope said that pointing out flaws so they can be corrected is fine, but if it's done without love for the Church, “that is of the devil.”
According to ABC, the comments were made on the eve of the Vatican's landmark summit into the protection of minors, with 190 bishops and heads of Catholic religious orders traveling to the Holy See to ensure church leaders are held accountable to victims.
British victims' advocate Pete Saunders said the Pope's comments proved he was "not really interested in bringing real change."
Mr. Saunders was previously a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors but was put on leave when he openly chastised the Pope's response to revelations of clerical abuse in Chile.
"To attack us and to say that we are friends, relatives, and cousins of the devil, I put it down to a kind of Trumpian tantrum," Mr. Saunders said.
"I think whatever credibility the Pope had, I think has now been completely extinguished."
Mr. Saunders said the Pope's comments could even endanger people in some parts of the world where his words are followed very closely.
"It may endanger the lives, actually endanger the lives of survivors who speak out," he said.
"And of course, it may even endanger the lives of priests and others around the world."
During the opening address of the summit at the Vatican, Pope Francis told church leaders to "hear the cries of the little ones," and urged bishops to consider "concrete" measures to deal with the abuse crisis.
"The holy people of God look to us and expect from us not simple and obvious condemnations, but concrete and effective measures," he said.
The summit heard harrowing testimonials from victims of abuse, including a woman who said she was raped by her parish priest over the course of 13 years.
The survivor said she fell pregnant three times but the priest forced her to have multiple abortions.
Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge said the Pope had given strong indications of the types of changes he would like bishops to consider.
He said the abuse crisis could prompt a "renegotiation of the relationship between church and state."
But he said he would not budge on his view of upholding church secrecy rules for confession, meaning clergy do not have to report priests who disclose abuse in confession.