Francis spoke about the church's handling of sex abuse cases while flying home from Mexico, where victims of that country's most notorious pedophile, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, are still coping with the trauma of his abuse.
"It's a monstrosity," Francis said of clerical abuse. "Because a priest is consecrated to bring a child to God and if he eats him in a diabolical sacrifice, it destroys him."
The role of bishops in the abuse scandal made headlines again recently after a French priest told a Vatican course for new bishops that they don't have to report suspected abuse to police.
His comments drew a swift correction from Francis' top adviser, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who said bishops have an "ethical and moral" obligation to report suspected pedophiles to civil authorities.
"A bishop who changes parish when he detects pederasty is reckless and the best thing he can do is present his resignation," Francis said. "Clear?"
Francis also reaffirmed the Vatican's oversight of Maciel's Legion of Christ, saying it is continuing to help the scandal-plagued religious order reform and praising his predecessor for bringing the truth of Maciel's misdeeds to light.