Amid recent reports of sex abuses committed by Catholic priests, especially in the United States, church leaders in the Philippines have vowed not to tolerate such criminal acts there.
The country’s Catholic bishops said this “painful situation” is an opportunity for them “to revisit and review” existing guidelines for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults.
In a pastoral statement issued on Aug. 31, the prelates said the guidelines should be implemented “with renewed resolve and commitment … and not cover up” abuse cases.
“The pain is intensified by reported cover-ups of these abuses and crimes,” read the bishops’ statement signed by Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, president of the bishops’ conference.
In July, Filipino Catholic bishops said they “bow in shame when we hear of abuses being committed by some of our fellow church leaders.”
Last week, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, a former Vatican ambassador to the Unites States, claimed in an 11-page document that Pope Francis ignored misconduct allegations against an American cardinal.
Earlier, the Catholic Church was rocked by allegations of rampant sex abuse with the release of a grand jury report in the United States that detailed the abuse of children in six Pennsylvania dioceses.
During his trip to Ireland last week, Pope Francis met Irish abuse victims and asked Catholics to forgive the church for its failings.
“We ask forgiveness for the times that we did not show [abuse] survivors compassion or the justice they deserve in the search for truth,” said the pontiff.
He also asked “forgiveness for members of the church hierarchy who did not take care of these situations and kept quiet.”
Philippine Church leaders said reports on the sexual misconduct by a cardinal in the United States “has brought more intensity to the pain and shame now being endured by the church.”
The prelates said the revelation by Archbishop Vigano “has brought more painful questions that obviously need urgent answers that will show us the truth.”
The Filipino bishops said they are determined to continue to ensure that the church is a safe environment for all Catholics, especially children.
The bishops’ pastoral exhortation on the pastoral care and protection of minors urged Catholics to pray and fast amid the sex abuse scandals.
“The situation also calls us to something important. It reminds us to go to the Lord in prayer,” said the prelates.