Pope Francis on Monday delivered a strong denunciation of the Catholic Church's response to abusive priests in language anyone could understand. "We showed no care for the little ones," the pope wrote in a letter to Catholics around the world, reports the AP. "We abandoned them." Francis wrote that "no effort must be spared" to fight further abuses and to expose cover-ups, per the Washington Post. He also blasted the culture of denial within the church, accusing its leaders of being more concerned with their reputations than with the victims. However, the letter did not spell out any punishments the Vatican might take against bishops who helped cover up the scandal.
"With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives," Francis wrote. He also decried the "the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience" undertaken by a "significant number of clerics." His three-page letter comes in the wake of a jarring grand jury report in Pennsylvania that alleged abuse by more than 300 priests against 1,000 children over seven decades. "Never again," he wrote. Francis travels to heavily Catholic Ireland this weekend, and the abuse scandal is expected to dominate the trip.