Secret Vatican Paper Ordered Abuse Cover-up
'Systematic Campaign to Protect Priests'

By Lucy Bannerman
Glasgow Herald [Scotland]
August 18, 2003

A SECRET Vatican paper which threatened to excommunicate bishops around the world if they did not cover up cases of sexual abuse has been published in Britain and the United States.

Lawyers acting for alleged victims of abuse say the document proves the existence of a systematic campaign by the Vatican to hush up sexual abuse in order to protect Catholic priests.

The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland said yesterday the 1962 confidential Vatican instruction should be "put in historical context".

While the existence of the document has been confirmed as genuine by the church in England and Wales, the church in Scotland was unable yesterday to say if Scottish bishops had received the 69-page Latin document bearing the seal of Pope John XXIII.

It is understood the document was sent to every bishop worldwide with orders to keep it under lock and key.

The document focuses primarily on priests accused of propositioning congregants during confession, the rite in which the faithful tell priests of their sins. But it also instructs bishops to treat cases of the "worst crime", defined as obscene acts with young people of either sex or animals, "in the most secretive way".

"Everyone . . . is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office . . . under the penalty of excommunication," instructs the document, which was obtained from secret Vatican archives by Daniel Shea, a Texan lawyer.

An expert in canon law, Mr Shea discovered it as part of his work for victims of abuse by Catholic priests in the US.

Mr Shea described the document as a "blueprint for deception and concealment". He has handed the document, known as "Crimine solicitationies", to the American authorities, urging them to launch a federal investigation into the clergy's alleged cover-up of sexual abuse.

Peter Kearney, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, said yesterday of the document: "If it was circulating at all, I don't think any of the bishops who would have received it, if at all, are still alive.

"It is difficult today, a couple decades on, to try to read the minds of those running the church in the 1960s and comment on how they reacted. You have to put it in historical context."

But he added: "We are not complacent. A lot of different denominations are dealing with this common issue (of sex abuse) - it is not just one church.

"There is more of a culture of openness in society today. We deal with matters that wouldn't have been discussed then. Sadly, abuse has always been with us. That's the reality of it."

Openness, was now the key policy of the clergy.

He said: "It is impossible to find a profession that hasn't had a type of abuse experience. If someone is predisposed to abuse, they will seek out a position of trust and responsibility."

Paul Baier, of Support First, a US charity, said the discovery proved the existence of systematic campaign to hush up sexual abuse issues within the church.

He said: "It just reinforces what a lot of us have known all along - that there has been a co-ordinated strategy in which the Vatican places avoiding scandal above the truth."

Mr Baier, who works with victims who were abused by Catholic priests in America, added: "Not only has the Vatican known about it, it has endorsed a cover-up. It is not a sin of omission, of turning a blind eye. Their policy was to have secrecy as a virtue.

"What happened in Boston was not unique. We increasingly believe that this is happening across the world. We always said up until 1992 that we didn't have child abuse in our church.

"That could be happening in Scotland or England."


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