ROME (AP) — Pope Francis' point man on clerical sex abuse said Monday the failure of the Catholic Church to punish bishops who covered up for pedophiles had seriously harmed its credibility and that it must now lead the way by "humbly making the commitment to accountability, transparency and zero tolerance."
Cardinal Sean O'Malley, archbishop of Boston, said canon lawyers and theologians were reviewing proposals to present to the pope on holding bishops and religious superiors accountable. The proposals were developed by Francis' commission of experts, which O'Malley chairs and includes two survivors of abuse.
O'Malley said the sex abuse scandal had "seriously diminished" the church's credibility in its core spheres of defending human rights, the unborn and immigrants.
"This has been caused in large part by the perception of a lack of accountability on the part of our leadership, causing many people to lose their trust in us and in the church," he said. "We cannot fail to do all that is possible to restore our credibility."
Victims of abuse have long denounced the Vatican for failing to sanction any bishop who covered up for an abuser.
O'Malley spoke at a conference at the Jesuit Pontifical Gregorian University, which is leading the church's efforts to educate a new generation of priests about preventing abuse and helping survivors through a specialized center for education and research. Francis publicly endorsed the initiative Monday.
O'Malley said the aim was also to educate the older generation of church leaders about the importance of accountability "and the consequences of not having accountability." He said the commission would be hosting seminars for Vatican officials, as well as new bishops passing through Rome for training, to teach them how to handle abuse cases when they arise, how to care for victims and prevent abuse from happening in the first place.
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