Just days after the Vatican defrocked ex-Cardinal and Archbishop Theodore McCarrick after he was found guilty of sexual abuse of minors and adults, Pope Francis said that those who criticize the Catholic church are "friends of the devil," according to The Guardian.
The Pope made his statement ahead of a four-day summit with bishops and cardinals on how to deal with sex abuse in the church. It also coincided with a public letter from Cardinals Raymond Burke and Walter Brandmuller in which they blamed a "homosexual agenda" for creating a "conspiracy of silence" within the church.
Speaking to the crowd on the eve of "Protection of Minors in the Church" summit, the Pope said that "defects" of the church must be denounced "in order to correct them." But then he shifted focus to critics of the church.
"One cannot live a whole life accusing, accusing, accusing, the church," Pope Francis said. Those who do are "the friends, cousins, and relatives of the devil."
Meanwhile, Burke and Brandmuller released a lengthy statement saying that rampant sexual abuse in the church has been "blamed on clericalism" but that the real reason sexual abuse among priests is so pervasive is because the abusers strayed from the organization's core teachings.
"[The] "first and primary fault of the clergy does not rest in the abuse of power but in having gone away from the truth of the Gospel," the Cardinals wrote.
They then equate homosexuality with pedophilia and attempt to remove blame for the horrendous sex crimes occurring within the Catholic Church from the organization.
"Before the drift in process it seems that the difficulty is reduced to that of the abuse of minors, a horrible crime, especially when it is perpetrated by a priest, which is, however, only part of a much greater crisis," they wrote. "The plague of the homosexual agenda has been spread within the Church, promoted by organized networks and protected by a climate of complicity and a conspiracy of silence."
"The roots of this phenomenon are clearly found in that atmosphere of materialism, of relativism, and of hedonism, in which the existence of an absolute moral law, that is without exceptions, is openly called into question," the cardinals continued.
Issues of sex abuse in the church will be undertaken at the four-day summit beginning on Thursday at which about 180 bishops and cardinals are expected to be in attendance, according to The Guardian.
The event is considered an ecclesiastical event that will include prayer and listening to survivors of abuse, according to Vatican News.
Meanwhile, the victims advocate group Ending Clergy Abuse, has a two-pronged demand for the Pope and for the church.
"Kicking out abusive priests and expelling the bishops and cardinals who covered them up," Peter Isley, a spokesperson for Ending Clergy Abuse, said. "Resignations are not enough."