Pope won't be lenient with predator priests: ex-prosecutor

Sat Jan 18, 2014 10:04am EST
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis will not show leniency towards pedophile priests because truth and justice are more important than protecting the Church, the Vatican's former sex crimes prosecutor said on Saturday.

Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the most authoritative Catholic official on the Church's abuse crisis, also told Reuters that the number of clerics defrocked by the Vatican was likely to have fallen to about 100 in 2013 from about 125 in 2012.

Scicluna said Francis, despite his merciful nature, would be very tough on pedophile priests after an abuse crisis that the pope on Thursday called "the shame of the Church."

"I have met with Francis and he has expressed great determination to continue on the line of his predecessors," said Scicluna, who served in the Vatican for 17 years before he was named an auxiliary bishop in his native Malta in 2012.

"His gospel of mercy is very important but it is not cheap mercy. It has to respect the truth and the demands of justice," Scicluna said in a telephone interview.

The pope, who was elected last March, set up a commission of experts last month to address the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church, in his first major step to tackle a crisis that has plagued it for two decades.

The group will consider ways to better screen priests, protect minors and help victims in the face of charges the Vatican has not done enough to guard the vulnerable or make amends.

Scicluna, who served in Rome for 17 years, was the Vatican's expert last Thursday in Geneva when United Nations child protection experts pushed Holy See delegates to reveal the scope of the decades-long sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests.   Continued...

Newly-ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Malta Monsignor Charles Scicluna (C) is congratulated by fellow bishops during his ordination ceremony at St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta November 24, 2012 in this file picture. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi