Sexual abuse survivors and church officials have slammed Pope Francis for reducing the sanctions placed on paedophile priests.
As part of the Pope’s vision of a ‘merciful church’ the Pontiff have reduced sentences for sex offenders within the church to a lifetime of prayer and penance, The International Business Insider reports.
This includes to recently convicted priests who were found guilty by the Vatican of abusing boys who were punished in such a fashion overruling the advice given to him by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
One of these priests, Reverend Mauro Inzoli who abused boys as young as 12, was originally punished by being defrocked however he appealed the sentence and Francis reduced the penalty to a lifetime of prayer and to continue service in a restricted ministry.
As part of his new punishment Inzoli is no longer allowed to perform mass in public, is barred from his diocese and has to undergo five years of psychotherapy.
The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had recommended stricter punishments but Inzoli was allowed to continue working as a priest.
Pope Francis’ decision was met with outrage in the northern Italian town of Cremona, where the abuse took place.
Abuse survivor and founding member of Francis’ sex-abuse advisory commission, Marie Collins, has criticised the Pope’s decision.
All who abuse have made a conscious decision to do so. Even those who are paedophiles, experts will tell you, are still responsible for their actions. They can resist their inclinations.
While mercy is important, justice for all parties is equally important,” she added. “If there is seen to be any weakness about proper penalties, then it might well send the wrong message to those who would abuse.
Despite this church officials maintain that priests who are defrocked pose more of a risk to society without the church to control them.
Greg Burke, a Vatican spokesman, defended the Pope’s actions and claimed the church put strict restrictions in place which are intended to supervise the priest’s conduct and prevent their access to children.
The Holy Father understands that many victims and survivors can find any sign of mercy in this area difficult, but he knows that the Gospel message of mercy is ultimately a source of powerful healing and of grace.
Pope Francis has been praised as a progressive Pope with liberal views on homosexuality, contraception and atheism in contrast to his more conservative predecessor Pope Benedict XVI.
Benedict XVI, reportedly defrocked 800 priests who’d been found guilty of sexual abuse.