Sex Crimes and the Vatican
The 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.