Pope Benedict XVI condemned the abuse of children by priests Monday, saying the church will never stop deploring such behavior.
For centuries, the Catholic Church has shown its commitment to loving and respecting children and ensuring their basic human rights are respected, Benedict told members of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family.
"Unfortunately in some cases, some of its members — acting in contrast to this commitment — have violated these rights, a behavior that the church hasn't, and won't ever stop deploring and condemning," he said.
Benedict's comments came as he is finalizing a letter to the Irish faithful concerning Ireland's massive church sex abuse and cover-up scandal.
Irish government-ordered investigations published last year documented decades of abuse by priests as well as the church's Dickensian network of residences for troubled Irish boys and girls where physical, psychological and sexual abuse was rampant.
In addition, the investigations showed how the Dublin Archdiocese covered up the abuse.
Four bishops have announced their resignations for failing to tell police about abuse cases. But Benedict has confirmed only the departure of Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick.
In the wake of the reports, Benedict summoned all of Ireland's bishops to the Vatican for an extraordinary meeting Feb. 15-16. He plans to release a letter to Ireland's 4 million Catholics afterward.
The U.S.-based victims support group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests called Benedict's comments Monday "meaningless and self-serving."
"How many times does the pope get to 'condemn' clergy sexual abuse while doing virtually nothing to stop it?" asked Barbara Dorris, the group's outreach director. "How many times will he try to divert attention away from the complicity of bishops and focus exclusively on the crimes of the predators?"
In his speech Monday, Benedict said children deserved to be loved and respected by all — and that they flourish best in a family. He stressed his long-standing position that a family is founded on the marriage between a man and woman — and that couples should do everything possible to avoid separation and stay together for the sake of their children.
"They want to be loved by a mother and a father who love one another; they need to live with and grow up with both parents, because the maternal and paternal figures are complementary in educating children and in building their personalities and identities," the pope said.
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