“This is a tragedy. We should not tolerate the abuse of minors”, Francis said, departing from prepared remarks at his weekly Sunday message and blessing to tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square. “We must protect minors and severely punish abusers”, he said. Though the Catholic Church itself has been rocked by its own abuse scandals, Francis did not mention them.
Italians have been shocked as details emerged in the case of six-year-old Fortuna who died in June 2014 after a fall from an eighth-storey balcony in Naples. After reopening the case, police charged a 43-year-old man with having thrown the girl to her death in a housing block in a rough area of the city after raping her. Police said they suspected he killed her so she would not talk. The man, who has also been accused of molesting other children and is now in prison in Rome has denied the charges.
Child abuse by priests has plagued the Roman Catholic Church itself for decades. While some cases of sexual abuse in the Church were exposed piecemeal, such as in the U.S. state of Louisiana in the 1980s, the scandal exploded in 2002, when it was discovered that U.S. bishops in the Boston area moved abusers from parish to parish instead of defrocking them. Similar scandals have since been discovered around the world and tens of millions of dollars have been paid in compensation.