The U.S. church has already been dealt a heavy financial blow by settlement payments and other costs totaling around $3 billion, which has forced it to sell off assets and cut costs.
The pontiff has vowed to root out “the scourge” of sex abuse from the Roman Catholic Church, and last June created a Vatican tribunal to judge clergy accused of covering up or failing to prevent sexual abuse of minors.
Victims' groups say the church has not done enough.
On Wednesday, David Clohessy, head of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who himself was sexually assaulted by a priest as a child, said he was unimpressed by Francis' words.
“It's dreadfully disappointing. Bishops have been cowardly, not courageous, and still are,” Clohessy said. “What grudging, belated steps they have taken have been forced on them by the most courageous people in this crisis, abuse victims and their families.”
Clohessy said Francis “refuses to even be honest about what this crisis is. These are not quote-unquote ‘difficult moments,’ this is a centuries-old, incredibly unhealthy and self-surviving pattern of secrecy and recklessness,” Clohessy said in a phone interview after the pope's remarks.
During his six days in the United States, the pope may meet privately with victims of sexual abuse. The Vatican has said an eventual meeting would be announced after it takes place in order to protect the privacy of the victims.