One of the Biggest Scandals of Our Times'
The Guardian [Britain]
August 19, 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 ... 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 ...
"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."
Daily Mirror Editorial, August 18
"The cover-up of sexual abuse by Catholic priests is one of the biggest scandals of our times. The discovery of a confidential Vatican document ordering the concealment of such crimes only deepens the sense of shock and disgust ... There is overwhelming evidence that, in the 40 years since the document was written, they systematically covered up abuse and tried to silence victims.
"It is a policy which caused incredible heartache and unnecessary extra suffering ... It's time the Vatican cleaned up its act voluntarily and showed some Christian charity - instead of being forced to do so by the courts."
Independent Editorial, August 18
"What is revealed by this document ... is that secrecy and cover-up were not just part of the clerical culture but institutionalised into its practice.
"The head of the Catholic church here, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, who has in the past admitted to being negligent over paedophile priests, needs immediately to come forward to disclose whether or not this unpalatable document has had any influence on his past actions - and why its existence was not uncovered by Lord Nolan in his review of English Catholicism's policies on child abuse. More importantly, the cardinal needs to state plainly that, under the church's post-Nolan guidelines, whatever place this kind of approach had in the past, it has no place in the church of today."
El Mundo Editorial, Spain, August 18
"Not even the solid image of a Pope as universally adored as John XXIII has survived intact. The 69-page document that bears his signature, and which has now been brought to light, demonstrates beyond any doubt that the Catholic church systematically hid - under pain of excommunication - cases of sexual abuse by its clergy. The date - 1962 - indicates that this kind of abuse is not a recent phenomenon, as the church hierarchy has tried to suggest. Discretion in such delicate matters may appear to be a matter of obligation, but lawyers representing victims of abuse argue that the church is using silence to cover up criminal acts that society has an unavoidable duty to investigate.
"The document, written in Latin and authenticated by the Vatican, gave bishops all over the world a strict set of instructions. It seems the threat of being exiled from the church led many bishops to obey the Pope and to cover up any possible cases of abuse that came to their attention. Looked at this way, the extremely controversial behaviour of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor ... who has been vilified for hiding sexual abuse by one of his priests, makes sense."
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