Pope Francis is staunchly opposed to the “stupid” practice of reassigning priests who are accused of pedophilia, preferring to drum them out of the priesthood instead.
The former archbishop of Buenos Aires — then known as Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio — favors “zero tolerance” for priestly sexual abuse and criticized previous cases in the U.S. where accused clerics were simply moved to other parishes, according to a book of conversations he had with Rabbi Abraham Skorka.
During his 14 years as archbishop, Bergoglio ordered church officials to report all allegations to the police rather than simply moving them to avoid damaging the church.
“That solution was proposed once in the United States … switching the priests to a different parish. It is a stupid idea,” Bergoglio said. “That way, the priest just takes the problem with him wherever he goes.”
The 2010 interviews just came to light through an English translation just posted by the Catholic news service Aleteia.
As Bergoglio, the cardinal favored the hardline approach of taking away priests’ licenses if they were accused of abuse. He also advised bishops to begin a canonical trial against the accused priest.
“I think that’s the attitude to have,” he said.
The interview is being revisited around the world for clues how Pope Francis will deal with the ongoing pedophile priest scandal.
The problem is particularly acute in Ireland, where priests engaged in “endemic” molestation of children for decades, according to two reports by the Irish government issued since 2009.
Church officials were more worried about avoiding scandal than protecting the victims, the reports found. Priests were often transferred to new parishes and the allegations hushed up, a pattern that was repeated in other Catholic dioceses around the world, including the U.S.
In 2002, a Connecticut newspaper published a scathing report of Edward Cardinal Egan’s efforts to protect priests accused of abuse in New York.
“Egan failed to investigate aggressively some abuse allegations, did not refer complaints to criminal authorities and … suggested that a dozen people who made complaints of rape, molestation and beatings against the same priest may have all been lying,” said the article, citing court documents.
Roger Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles was dogged by similar allegations.
The LA Times reported he “withheld information from police and allowed clerics facing prosecution to flee to foreign countries.”