- (Photo: REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini)
Pope Francis has stated that the Church should "act decisively" with regards to the issue of sexual abuse within the Church, insisting those found guilty should be punished to ensure the safety of children.
Bishop Gerhard Mueller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith that oversees the investigation related to clerical sex abuse cases, held a meeting with Pope Francis' and was told to continue to root out abusive behavior within the Church.
"Act decisively as far as cases of sexual abuse are concerned, promoting, above all, measures to protect minors, help for those who have suffered such violence in the past (and) the necessary procedures against those who are guilty," read a Vatican statement revealing the nature of the Pope's Message to Bishop Mueller.
Pope Francis made his remarks on Friday and in his short time as head of the Catholic Church has made the plight of the poor as well as eliminating abusive priests from the Church his top priorities. The Pope insisted that in order to restore the Church's reputation and credibility, these actions must be taken.
Pope Francis has encouraged has already encouraged the placement of "directives in this matter which is so important for the witness of the Church and its credibility," the Vatican revealed.
But it is not just Pope Francis who feels that rooting out abuse behavior should be a top priority for the Church; a recent national survey showed 7 out of 10 American Catholics feel addressing the sex abuse scandals should be among the top priorities for Pope Francis.
The poll was facilitated by the Pew Research Center and published in The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life last month.
The poll, which was conducted March 13-17 among 1,501 adults including 325 Catholics, also highlighted that while some Catholics would like the church to make changes to some of the teachings and policies, most don't expect major changes to be made.
While many praised the new Pope for focusing his priorities on notable problems within the Church, some children advocacy groups are demanding to see action instead of continued rhetoric.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said the Pope's statement did not usher in a new plan and that his words did not go far enough to protect children.
"We can't confuse words with actions. When we do, we hurt kids. We must insist on new tangible action that helps vulnerable children protect their bodies, not old vague pledges that help a widely-discredited institution protect its reputation," read a SNAP statement.