Pope Francis vowed Friday that the Catholic Church will "never again" cover up clergy sex abuse and demanded that priests who have raped and molested children turn themselves in. Francis dedicated his annual Christmas speech to the Vatican bureaucracy to abuse, evidence that a year of devastating revelations of sexual misconduct and cover-up has shaken his papacy, reports the AP. Francis urged victims to come forward, thanked the media for giving them a voice, and issued a stark warning to abusers: "Convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice." He added of priests who abuse those in their care, "Often behind their boundless amiability ... and angelic faces, they shamelessly conceal a vicious wolf ready to devour innocent souls," he said.
Francis' demand that abusers turn themselves in to face "human justice" was significant: Vatican guidelines currently only call for bishops to report priestly abusers to police in those countries where civil law requires it—a technicality that survivors and their advocates have long blasted as a convenient dodge to the church's moral obligation to protect children regardless of what the law requires. "Let it be clear that before these abominations the church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes," he said. Francis has summoned church leaders from around the globe for a February abuse prevention summit, in an indication that he has come to realize that the problem is far greater and far more global than he had understood at the start of his pontificate five years ago.
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