Nightly News   |  March 05, 2014

Church Sex Abuse Survivors Criticize Pope

On Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis’ strong words – printed in Italy’s largest newspaper -- caught some parishioners by surprise.

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>>> and overseas, pope francis has made comments on this ash wednesday that are drawing criticism and may stop his luster among american catholics , who have become in short order a fan of the pope. it is mostly what he said about the church sex scandal that is getting the attention. our report from nbc's anne thompson .

>> reporter: pope francis opened the season of penance and forgiveness, urging the faithful to resist a godless culture, but it is his manner on the sex abuse scandal that is igniting controversy. in a front page article, the pope said the catholic church is possibly the only public institution that acted with transparency and responsibility, nobody else did more. still, the catholic church was the only one to come on fire. abuse victims blasted his words and blamed the catholic church for failing to take action on children.

>> it is hard to see the true colors of pope francis and it seems to be that he wants the same rankless and private ways of coping to continue.

>> reporter: francis 's strong words surprised some as this is the pope who captured the world's attention with the simple words of mercy, making this humble man globally ranked. some paint him as a superstar, they say it is offensive.

>> he would like people to pay attention to what he is saying.

>> and what the pope makes clear in this interview is while he will listen the basic teachings of the catholic church are not up for review. on birth control banned by the church by used by many catholics , the pope said it is not the choice of changing but going deeper, so they can help what can be done for people. he appeared to open the door on civil unions saying we need to look at different cases and evaluate them. the pope trying to take a new approach to the issues dividing many catholics . anne thompson , nbc news new