Old Vatican Document Like Nuclear Weapon

By Jacqueline Courtney
Strabane Chronicle [Ireland]
Downloaded August 27, 2003

A secret 40 year-old Vatican document recently unearthed, claims to have instructed Catholic Bishops to cover up cases of sexual abuse or face excommunication.

It is understood the secret order, written in Latin, was sent from the Vatican in 1962 and reveals the Catholic Church's procedure for handling allegations of sex abuse by priests at that time.

American lawyer Daniel Shea, who represents several of the alleged victims, uncovered the document through a letter he found on the Internet, in Latin, which referred to the 'Crimen sollicitationis' or 'Crime of Solicitation'.

The letter, by Cardinal Ratzinger and dated May 18 2001, was proof to Mr Shea that the Catholic Church adhered to the document at that time.

Mr Shea claimed the document was 'like a nuclear weapon' exposing a conspiracy of silence in the Church.

Protection guidelines

Reacting to the news, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Communications Office, in Maynooth, Co Kildare, told 'the Strabane Chronicle' that since 1996 the Irish Bishops' Conference had put in place a series of child protection guidelines.

'They have been in place since then. They were adopted by all 26 dioceses and recommended mandatory reporting.'

Since then the Irish Bishops have introduced several new child protection initiatives including the establishment of a Child Protection Office and a Child Protection Committee.

'We are currently reviewing those 1996 guidelines,' added the spokesperson.

Meanwhile lawyers representing alleged abuse victims claimed the leaked report proves the Vatican had obstructed justice for decades to protect Catholic priests from prosecution. But lawyers for the Church say the document only referred to Church Law, and did not order bishops to get involved in criminal cover-ups.

Mr Shea says he later turned the document over to the US authorities.

The Vatican allegedly instructed every Catholic Bishop in the world, who received the document, which bears the seal of Pope John XX111 and calls for the 'strictest secrecy in dealing with abuse allegations', to keep it locked away.

Anyone who breaks the silence over the document, which deals mainly with priests accused of propositioning congregants during confessions, is threatened with expulsion.

Earlier this month, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said the document had not been in force for years and was made redundant by later guidelines introduced in the 1960s, 1970s and 1983.

In the Vatican's 1983 Code of Canon Law, the guidelines stress any priest found guilty of abusing a minor can be defrocked.

In America, the Catholic Church has been shattered by revelations of sexual abuse at the hands of priests and bishops have been accused of protecting priests suspected of sexual abuse by moving them to new parishes.

The Church is facing hundreds of civil lawsuits by people who say they were abused. Lawyers say the age of the document refutes Church claims that the problem of sex abuse by priests is a new one.'

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