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Sex Crimes and the Vatican

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William Crawley | 09:37 UK time, Saturday, 20 March 2010

Pope-Benedict-XVI-has-sai-001.jpgThe secret Vatican document Crimen Sollicitationis has again been at the centre of a public debate about clerical child abuse. The directive was issued in 1962 and sets out instructions for dealing with abuse allegations related to the Confessional, and more broadly any occasion of child abuse by a priest. Critics say this document is the smoking gun in the Vatican files, that it functioned as a mandate for a worldwide cover-up of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. (Read an English translation of the Latin text here.)

The Catholic Church in Ireland emphasizes that it, like other church authorities, now operates in accordance with new and robust child protection guidelines. But questions are now being asked about the church hierarchy's role in an alleged cover-up of child abuse, over many decades, including the use of vows of secrecy to silence child victims. In Ireland, there are increasing calls for a public enquiry to investigate the church's handling of abuse allegations in every diocese.

Internationally, Pope Benedict XVI also faces questions. While he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith , a position he held for more than 20 years, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ordered that files relating to all clerical abuse allegations be sent to his office at the Vatican. It was his office that enforced the instructions set out in Crimen Sollicitationis.

The canon lawyer Fr Tom Doyle says the Vatican could, if it chose to do so, open its archives and allow the world to see what is there. The Pope, he claims, could simply say: "Here's the policy: full disclosure to the civil authorities, absolute isolation and dismissal of any accused and proven and convicted clerics, complete openness and transparency, complete openness of all financial situations, stop all barriers to the legal process and completely co-operate with the civil authorities everywhere. He could do that."

In 2006, the BBC's Panorama programme investigated the relationship between the Vatican and the international sex abuse crisis. Watch the programme by clicking on the screen below.

David Willey, the BBC's veteran Rome correspondent, reports this week on the demolition of the Vatican's "wall of silence". He writes: "During four decades of reporting from the Vatican, I have never seen a graver crisis affecting the very credibility of the leadership of the world's longest surviving international organisation, the Roman Catholic Church." Listen to David's full report on Radio 4's From Our Own Correspondent.


  • Comment number 1.

    The Vatican has a long history of entangling people in unlawful oaths. This is one reason why the Westminster Confession of Faith has Chapter 22 "Of Lawful Oaths and Vows". See https://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/index.html?body=/documents/wcf_with_proofs/ch_XXII.html

  • Comment number 2.

    I would add that vows of secrecy is one of the reasons why more consistently Protestant Christians oppose the Orange Order and Free Masonry. For example the Reformed Presbyterians ban membership of the Orange Order and always have:

    1. Unscriptural Secrecy
    The practice of secrecy is contrary to the teaching of the Word of God, and to the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. He said "I have spoken openly to the world, ... I said nothing in secret." Secrecy is also damaging to society and is contrary to its well-being. "Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."

    2. Unlawful Oaths
    Membership in secret societies involves taking an oath before being aware of the obligation. No man is at liberty to bind his conscience by oath without a knowledge of the nature and extent of his undertaking. In doing so he is being bound to a law other than, and, in the light of further knowledge, possibly in conflict with, the revealed law of God. "There is only one Lawgiver and Judge", "It is a trap for man to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider his vows".

  • Comment number 3.

    His Holiness Ratzinger has spoken and, according to this morning's news reports, the cover-up of the cover-ups continues unabated. Clearly, truth and the Catholic Church keep poor company.

  • Comment number 4.

    Any reforms in the monitoring of priests in the RC must not be done by their own bishop. these are the very peole who have failed miserably. What I have heard so far suggests the Pope is still re-creating structures that enable POPWER and SECREACY to be maintained. Control of information is crucial.
    I suggest that each parish has a group made up of LAITY and clergy - with 50% representation of women - to INSPECT and MONITOR recruitment and ministry of ALL including bishops and higher clergy AND I SUGGEST ALL REPORTS AND MINUTES OF MEEETINGS ARE MADE PUBLIC AT EVERY STAGE.

  • Comment number 5.

    Growing up in a Catholic family, I have seen for myself this real Catholic truth. Truth that is contorted & extorted to the beliefs of the faith & then played out on a media frenzy to be what they want it to be.

    Now the truth is just "PETTY GOSSIP".

  • Comment number 6.

    I wonder just what the "Catholic God" thinks of all this...The pampered lives of the catholic hierarchy, the elobatate costumes, grand dwellings, many servants, huge bank accounts and businesses galore. The bigest disgrace of all is the coverup of child abuse, refusal to take action to protect our innocent children, neglect of basic duty of care. Sexual abuse by catholic lay teachers. However,it doesn't stop there, physical and emotional abuse by nuns was rife in my days at a catholic school, events I will long remeber. The church it seems is "Hell Bent" on further punishing the victims of sexual and physical abuse by ganging up against victims and joining with high powered church legals thereby attempting to prove the horror stories are fabricated. (Who would make up such horrific tales) This way the church saves money and has again shot down anyone who dares to make a complaint against such a powerful orginisation...Pope Benedict, I still wait patiently for a reply to the letter I wrote you over 2 years ago. Was it too hot to handle? I wonder just what the "Catholic God" thinks of all this...

  • Comment number 7.

    "For example the Reformed Presbyterians ban membership of the Orange Order and always have" I myself am a member of the reformed presbyterian church and the orange order and black preceptory...it is not banned it is according to the church inconsistant but this view is based upon fallacious lies made by republicans and discredited cults...

    1. Unscriptural Secrecy
    Nothing is secret though orange meetings are in private which is no different than kirk session meetings, this is due to security reasons and the threat posed by republicans.

    2. Unlawful Oaths
    "Membership of the orange institution is not regulated by the taking of any oath" Rule number 2 of the Rules and ordinances of the orange institution.... which sort of blows the lie that the orange order uses oaths out of the water.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    Lol a thread on sex crimes and the Vatican in which we are not allowed to discuss a. sex crimes and b. The Vatican.

  • Comment number 10.

    I wonder will Hans Kung's words be allowed on this thread?


  • Comment number 11.

    With enemies like Hans Kung, who needs friends?

  • Comment number 12.


    Yep, your right. What a letter!

  • Comment number 13.

    Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos has today admitted that the letter he sent to a French Bishop in 2001 praising him for risking going to prison to protect one of France's most notorious clerical sex offenders, is genuine.

    In his defense he claims that John Paul II okayed the letter.

    The list of blame now stands at - Satan, The Jews, homosexuals, the modernists of Vatican II, the Press, atheists, secular society and JPII.

  • Comment number 14.

    Add the victims to the list of accused. A bishop had the gall to suggest that children are asking for it:


    Quote from the article:

    "There are 13 year old adolescents who are under age and who are perfectly in agreement with, and what’s more wanting it, and if you are careless they will even provoke you"

    And of course there are those who manufacture scandal about the abuse of children by mislabeling 12 or 13 year olds as children. When they are post-pubescent, according to Catholic church apologist and utter creep Bill Donohue, head of the US Catholic League:


    So obviously no pedophilia in the abuse of 12 year olds then. And of course how could there be, in an organisation headed by such a wonderful chap. I mean, just a short look at him should convince anyone what a plendid guy he is, right?


    "Give in to the Dark side, my children......."

  • Comment number 15.

    The dark side gets even darker.

    Fr Gruber, a former Vicar General of Germany states that he was "bullied" by un-named Church sources last month, to carry the can for the mistake made by the then Cardinal Ratzinger 30 years ago, when a known paedophile priest was allowed to move diocese.

    Gruber stated that he was pressurized into signing a fax where he accepted sole blame for the "mistake" in order to remove Pope Benedict from 'the heat.'

    This really puts the Pope's meeting with eight abuse victims in Malta at the weekend into context (and the Vatican statement released 5 minutes later) saying how tearful the Pope was at that meeting.

    Still, those victims must be so relieved that Ratzinger has resolved to "pray for them."

    Ratzinger, Bertone, Sodano and Levada must resign, together with every Bishop who is presently sitting on letters signed by Ratzinger appealing for them to cover up for abuser priests in order to protect "the greater good of the universal church."

  • Comment number 16.

    Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos has defended his 2001 letter to French Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux, a letter in which he praises the Bishop for his silence regarding infamous abuser, Fr Rene Bissey.

    In his letter, Castrillon Hoyos states that Pican will be remembered as "a hero."

    Defending his letter, Castrillon Hoyos has said that what he was actually praising was Pican's not breaking the seal of Confession.

    (Pssst... Cardinal, if Bishop Pican was under the seal of confession, he shouldnt have told YOU about it!!)

    Yet another poor attempt at defending the indefensible.

  • Comment number 17.

    Castrillon Hoyos is to celebrate a Tridentine Mass to celebrate five years of Ratzinger's papacy in Washington on Saturday.

    Sounds like the Pope is really taking the abuse problem seriously after all.

  • Comment number 18.

    Breaking News.

    Castrillon Hoyos has pulled out of the Tridentine Mass he was supposed to be saying in Washington on Saturday.

  • Comment number 19.

    Hey ChristianCalvinist or Jean Cauvin - who are these Reformed Presbyterians? Are they the same as the Covenanters? I have some far out relations over there that are some kind of different presbyterian - somewhere in around Belfast. ChristianCalvinist What congregation do you belong to?

    thanks for your help

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    Now that this thread has been revived, it may be noteworthy to point out that CNN aired a documentary 'What the pope knew' last weekend. It's been put on YouTube in 5 parts at (mods please don't remove, they are very relevant urls for this thread)

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    Here is an interesting link that charts abuse by Roman Catholic priests around the globe:


    The stats from Brazil are truly disturbing.

    We will prove that the Vatican is nothing more than the corporate H.Q. of a multinational NGO. I can't get a hotel room in the Vatican fortress that is reason enough for it to stop conning people with the 'nation' tag.

    Geoffrey Robertson made a stirring speech at Whitehall on September 18th:

    I am proud to have participated in the historic rally.

    @ PeterKlaver - I watched the CNN broadcast about
    Ratzinger, it was okay but didn't have enough substance.

    @ William Crawley - How about a thread on Denmark?
    "Imagine No Religion: Can a Society Be Successful Without It?"
    Phil Zuckerman, Huffington Post

  • Comment number 25.

    You do realise, don't you Lucy, that there are no stats for Brazil on that site? All they've done is take the results from a single sample of Catholics in North America and assumed that the same statistics will apply worldwide. There is no attempt to determine what factors make abuse more likely and what national differences there may be. They don't even get the number of Catholics per country right - according to the 'survey,' there are over 40 million Catholics in the UK, which is laughable.

    Websites like that only undermine the important work that must be done to combat child abuse because their methodology is so sloppy and the results easily dismissed. Rather than being sensationalistic, they'd be much better off with more focused studies that are more rigorously examined, leading to conclusions that can't be trivially dismissed.


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