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Religious orders apologise for sex abuse inaction, cover-ups

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Catholic religious orders from around the world apologised yesterday for having failed to respond when their priests raped children, acknowledging that their family-like communities blinded them to sexual abuse and led to misplaced loyalties, denial and cover-ups.

The two umbrella organisations representing the world's religious orders issued a joint statement ahead of Pope Francis' sex abuse prevention summit, which opens tomorrow. They vowed to implement accountability measures going forward to ensure that cover-ups by religious superiors end and that children are always safe in the presence of clergy.

With a few exceptions, religious orders have largely flown under the radar in the decades-long scandal, since the focus has been on how diocesan bishops protected their priests and moved them from parish to parish where they were free to abuse again.

Yet congregations such as the Jesuits, Salesians and Christian Brothers have some of the worst records, since they too moved abusers around and had easy access to young victims, since many orders specialise in running schools.

The Union of Superiors General represents the leadership of male religious orders, which count around 133,000 priests globally. The female branch, the International Union of Superiors General, represents some 500,000 religious sisters. They will each send around a dozen representatives to the Vatican sex abuse summit.

In the statement, the groups said they were ashamed at how they had failed the most vulnerable they were meant to serve and blamed “the strong sense of family” that their communities fostered for having blinded them to the warning signs.


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