Pope Francis used the Spanish word “caca”, which translates as excrement, to describe those who covered up for clerics who abused people in their care.
His comments came during a private meeting with eight people representing a wide section of those who were mistreated by members of the Catholic Church in Ireland.
The clerical child sex abuse scandal has rocked the Catholic Church over the last two decades, since allegations against members of Catholic institutions and clerics began to emerge in the late 1980s.
Abuse survivor Marie Collins was one of the eight who met Pope Francis on Saturday, which also included representatives of institutional abuse, mother and baby homes, industrial schools and clerical abuse.
She described the meeting, which lasted 90 minutes, as “frank” and said the pontiff gave all the representatives a chance to tell him about their experiences.
The Pope was shocked, I don’t think he was aware of all the institutions in Ireland and some of the things that had happened thereMarie Collins, abuse survivor
Ms Collins said they had initially expected just half an hour with Pope Francis, but that he gave them longer and even ended up being late to the Festival of Families event at Croke Park due to their meeting overrunning.
“Everyone spoke very frankly, we spoke about what had happened in the various places, gave him statistics and described the horror of the experiences suffered by many,” she said.
“The Pope was shocked, I don’t think he was aware of all the institutions in Ireland and some of the things that had happened there.”
Ms Collins said Pope Francis was also very frank, and when he was talking about those guilty of involvement in corruption and the cover-up of abuse in the church he used the word “caca”, or excrement.
She said he gave commitments to a number of those who spoke.
“He was very willing to listen and engage, I was able to say what I wanted to say quite frankly,” she said.
“When he didn’t agree he said, he wasn’t just agreeing with me for the sake of agreeing.
“I asked him about making bishops accountable for the cover-up of abuses.
“They were as bad as the abusers themselves.
“I asked him for a process, a tribunal, but his answer was they were already being tried and if they were found guilty, they were removed.
“I told him that wasn’t obvious to people, we see bishops resigning and being allowed to walk away, they must make them accountable, it should be made public if they have been found guilty.
“He agreed that was a good point and would take it away with him.”