I feel compelled to take personal responsibility for all the evil that some priests, many — many in number, (although) not in comparison with the totality — to assume personal responsibility and to ask forgiveness for the damage caused by the sexual abuse of the children....Taking personal responsibility for the institution he rules certainly is a step in the appropriate direction. Imagining that the depredations of the church were not indelibly linked to its leadership is just that ... imagining. Centuries of systemic confusion and abuse are beyond doubt and the pope, like former American president Harry Truman, has a metaphorical plaque on his desk reading, "The buck stops here." So ... it is nice to acknowledge the facts.
The church is aware of this damage. We don't want to take a step back in dealing with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, I think we must be even stronger! You don't play around with the lives of children.
But whether that acknowledgment will be turned into unvarnished action, is, as ever in the Catholic Church, still up for grabs. The buck-and-shuffle of the past -- church leaders promising transparency and then hiding the facts -- suggests a certain wariness when it comes to apparent confessions. There are powerful people in the Vatican who really don't want their oxen gored and are willing to take whatever action is necessary to make sure those oxen remain safe and secure.
A measure of that power and that desire for safety might be deduced in the fact that the pontiff's remarks required some effort to obtain:
Francis' comments during the closed audience were reported in part by Vatican Radio, and Vatican Television excluded them entirely in its initial edit of the audience. The full quote was obtained after The Associated Press requested video of the full comments from Vatican Television.