Lawyers Allege Evidence Supports Vatican Cover-up

By Richard Nangle
Telegram & Gazette [Massachusetts]
Downloaded July 30, 2003

Two lawyers handling Massachusetts clergy abuse cases say they have found further evidence of what they allege are Vatican efforts at a cover-up, bolstering their call for federal investigators to bring conspiracy charges against Catholic church leaders nationwide.

The use of the word "how" in a passage from a December 2002 policy adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was an attempt to keep clergy abuse cases out of the legal system, according to Houston lawyer Daniel J. Shea, who is pursuing the matter with lawyer Carmen Durso of Boston.

Both lawyers represent some local alleged victims of clergy abuse.

The policy states in part, "Unless the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, having been notified, calls the case to itself because of special circumstances, it will direct the bishop/eparch how to proceed."

"The word "how' is an addition to the revised text from the Nov. 2002 USCCB meeting," Monsignor Michael Higgins, a canon lawyer at Justice for Priests and Deacons, wrote in a commentary on the policy.

"It appears at this stage, one must wait for a response from the CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith). The congregation will either call the case to itself or notify the bishop/eparch how to proceed. The word, how, is an addition to the revised text from the Nov. 2, 2002 USCCB meeting. It suggests that the CDF may require a process that differs in some respects from that currently found in the two codes," he wrote.

Monsignor Higgins, who is based in San Diego, runs a Web site at and maintains that priests and deacons have rights under the church's canon law and should not surrender.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan of Boston, Mr. Shea referred to another passage from the bishop's conference policy statement as "an escape clause."

Mr. Shea quoted from the policy, "The necessary observance of the canonical norms internal to the church is not intended in any way to hinder the course of any civil action that may be operative. At the same time, the church reaffirms her right to enact legislation binding on all her members concerning the ecclesiastical dimensions of the delict of sexual abuse of minors."

The bishops' policy statement is titled, "Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons."

"It's all smoke and mirrors," Mr. Shea said. "These children are no safer now than they have ever been."


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