Vatican: Letter endorsing abuse cover-up shows why Curia was reformed

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Catholic News Agency
16 April 2010
Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi.
Vatican City, Apr 16, 2010 / 12:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Late Thursday afternoon, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi released a statement about a letter from 2001 in which a cardinal appears to applaud a French bishop for his decision to not report a case of priestly sexual abuse to civil authorities. The spokesman said that cases such as this one highlight the importance of changes that were made giving the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith jurisdiction over cases of sexual abuse of minors.

A letter from September 8, 2001 has been published online by French magazine Golias, in which then-prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, offered congratulations to Bishop Pierre Pican for choosing not to report a priest who had been accused of sexual abuse to civil authorities.

The priest, Abbot Renè Bissey, was sentenced in 1998 to 18 years in prison for his abuses of minors, according to Italy’s La Stampa. Bishop Pican later received a three month sentence for withholding information.

In 2001, Cardinal Hoyos wrote him a letter in which he says, “I congratulate you for not having reported a priest to the civil administration.”

The cardinal adds later that he “rejoices” that he has a brother in the episcopate who would choose prison over reporting a priest under his watch.

Responding on Thursday, Fr. Lombardi said that the letter serves as confirmation of how timely the decision made in 2001 to channel all cases of sexual abuse through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was. This move guaranteed a “rigorous and coherent management,” the spokesman said.

Prior to 2001, all cases of sexual abuse involving priests went to the Congregation for the Clergy, and at that time, there was a disagreement between cardinals about whether priests who were found guilty should be prosecuted under both civil and canon law or just under Church law.

Referring to the change in jurisdiction, Fr. Lombardi explained that it happened with the approval of John Paul II’s Motu Proprio in May of that year.

After assuming control of the case load, then-Cardinal Ratzinger implemented norms for dealing with cases of sexual abuse by priests, which were made public by the Vatican on April 12.

  Comments: 4

Subscriber comments:
Published by: Michael
portland/orgegon/usa 04/16/2010 05:10 PM EST
A few things wrong with the reporting here. First, note that the letter congratulating the bishop on not turning in the self-confessed child molesting priest was dated September 2001, 4 months AFTER Ratzinger supposedly took over these cases. At the very least, this policy of coverup was not overturned immediately after Ratzinger supposedly took over. Second, it should be obvious that Lombardi’s own admission that this type of approach to child sexual molestation by clergy was part of the problem and why Ratzinger took over is, in fact, a bigger admission that Hoya’s approach to this had been official church policy for decades. Note…nowhere does Lombardi say that hiding child molesting priests from civil authorities was not the practice in past. One would think that he would have made this obvious point if it were true. Third, the statement that before 2001 Cardinals were “confused” can not be true. Google the rest of the letter Hoya sent to the bishop, which wasn’t quoted here, and you’ll see a man who clearly had been enforcing the hiding of criminal priests for at least his tenure as head of the CDR- he even says that he is going to forward a copy of the congratulatory letter to all the bishops of the world as an example of how to behave! Finally, the ‘norms’ put on the Vatican Website this week were the first time ever, in all history, where Bishops were told to go to civil authorities. The line in the norms wasn’t even there Friday when they first appeared online.
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Published by: Cynthia
Queens, NY 04/16/2010 03:48 PM EST
Miguel, I absolutely agree with the first part of your comments, about a person’s responsibility to report crime to authority, yet your other section is just out of place. Where in this article have you seen the Pope involved in the case? One wonders what issues you have with the Pope, that blinds you from seeing this. Contrary to popular media reports, this article is actually in justification of Pope Benedict XVI. It was because of cover ups like this that Pope John Paul II asked then Cardinal Ratzinger’s Office of Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith to begin handling cases of abuse of innocent children. Prior to this, as the article reveals, these cases where handled by individual dioceses, in conjuction with the congregation for the clergy. You all are fixated with trying to link the Pope with abuse cases and cover ups, so much that you fail to see the key role this good man played in bringing reform to structures. If you so wish you can go to Rome and handcuff, better still you can join the Atheists, if you are not one, in the campaign to arrest the Pope when he visits the UK. We are all outraged concerning these abuse case and the cover up that followed it, yet we should not allow this blind us from seeing the truth about the great number of priests who are good and honorable men, trying their best to serve God. Miguel, it would be nice if you express this same arrogance to your govt. public school officials who are do nothing to address past abuse cases.
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Published by: Vicki Double
Springfield, IL 62702 04/16/2010 03:30 PM EST
Miguel, while I agree with you completely, I must ask: how many wives and other family members know well that their husbands / sons, etc. are sexually (or physically) abusing their children, yet, do not report it to the police. One often has a false sense of loyalty. Also, please don’t think that bishops’ fear of scandal meant that they minimized the horror of abuse. This was not a “what will the neighbors think;” but rather, will people step out of the life of the sacraments because of some lousy priests and other workers in the church. God bless you all.
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Published by: Miguel
Montreal 04/16/2010 02:51 PM EST
When a person in a position of authority is informed of a crime that has taken place under his administration, he has a responsibility to inform the authorities. Anyone who does not inform the authorities is condoning the crime and should be charged with criminal negligence by the police. That includes the cardinals and Pope. If these cardinals and Pope were living in Canada, they would be in handcuffs.
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