Secrecy Fails to Instill Confidence

Irish Examiner [Ireland]
August 18, 2003

The report alleging Catholic bishops were ordered to cover up sexual abuse under pain of excommunication questions the assertions of the Church on its attitude to this problem.

The secret Vatican document, which sets out procedures for dealing with allegations of sex abuse by priests, has been published in the US and Britain.

What is even more disturbing, is that the document bears the seal of Pope John XXIII, one of the most popular of modern popes, and calls for the "strictest" secrecy in dealing with abuse allegations within the Church.

It was he who convened

the Ecumenical Council known as Vatican II, in 1962 which set in motion ideas and forces that would affect not only Roman Catholics or Christians, but the entire world's burgeoning population. Many consider his sainthood a foregone conclusion, but this latest controversy, which apparently had his imprimatur, could damage the cause.

Church lawyers insist that the document referred only to Church law and did not order bishops to engage in criminal cover-ups, and deals primarily with priests accused of propositioning congregants during confession.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops said that the document, Instruction on the Manner of Proceeding in Cases of Solicitation, had not been in force for years, having been superseded by later guidelines, and had no bearing on civil law.

Whatever interpretation is now being put on the instructions by the Church, lawyers who represent sexual abuse victims internationally, claim it is a blueprint for an official cover-up.

It may or may not be such, but the questions it raises will have to be answered in a particular and forthright manner


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