The next pope must have zero tolerance for priests who sexually abuse children, a scandal that’s left a “wound on the body of the church,” U.S. Cardinal Francis George said.
Catholic cardinals met at the Vatican today as they prepare to set a date for the secret conclave to choose a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned Feb. 28. The issue of sexual abuse by priests will be on their minds during the conclave, George said at a press conference in Rome today.
“It’s certainly in the minds and hearts of many of us because we have victims now, and they are not just victims of sexual abuse by teachers or politician or fathers or uncles, but they have been abused by Catholic priests, sometimes by Catholic bishops and sometimes the abuse has not been addressed,” said George, the archbishop of Chicago.
U.S. cardinals were instrumental in pushing the church to change its universal code to include zero tolerance for priests who abuse children, he said.
“Whoever is elected pope, he governs by law not, by whim or desire,” George said. “So he obviously has to accept the universal code of the church, which is zero tolerance for anyone who has ever abused a minor child and therefore may not remain in public ministry in the church. That has to be accepted.”
George, who’s participating in his second conclave after Benedict’s election in 2005, said abuse cases are “a terrible wound on the body of the church and it has to be looked at.”