, ABOARD PAPAL PLANE, May 27 – Pope Francis on Monday warned there were “no privileges” for bishops when it came to child sex crimes and said he would hold a special mass with victims next week in the Vatican.
“Three bishops are being investigated,” Francis told reporters on his return flight from the Middle East when asked about the thousands of scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church.
“One of them has already been convicted. There are no privileges. Priests who do this are betraying the Lord,” said the Argentine pontiff, who has set up a new committee to root out abuse.
Francis also said he would be celebrating a mass next week at his Vatican residence, St Martha’s, with “six or eight victims” and would then meet with them privately to talk about their ordeal.
The pope last month personally asked forgiveness for the “evil” of abuses and promised more action in response to accusations of cover-ups and excessive leniency by the Vatican.
At a UN hearing earlier this year, Vatican officials revealed that 3,420 abuse cases had been handled over the past decade by the Catholic Church’s Canon Law prosecutors.
As a result of these cases, 848 priests were defrocked — expelled from the priesthood. A further 2,572 were ordered to “live a life of prayer or penance”, for example in a monastery.
The Pope also commented that the celibacy of priests is not a matter of Church dogma, while defending its value amid calls among some Catholics for the requirement to be dropped.
Pope Francis said “there are married priests in the Church” citing married Anglican ministers who joined the Catholic Church, Coptic Catholics and the priests of some Eastern churches.
The celibacy of priests “is not a dogma”, the pontiff confirmed, apparently leaving the door open to debate on the subject.
The Church, and notably the current pope’s predecessor Benedict XVI, had previously said that the celibacy issued was not a matter of unbendable church dogma unlike, for example, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
One suggestion which has been made among church faithful is of the ordination of married men, especially retired men, who are already very engaged in church business.
It is not envisaged that single men could become priests and subsequently marry.