Letter to Irish Bishops Proves Vatican Put Secrecy Before Children’s Safety

VOTF National Statement--A newly public 1997 Vatican letter documents that the Vatican intervened in local church affairs to prevent mandatory reporting of abuse cases to civil authorities.
Jan. 20, 2011 - PRLog -- NEWTON, Mass., VOTF National Statement – A newly public 1997 Vatican letter documents that the Vatican intervened in local church affairs to prevent mandatory reporting of abuse cases to civil authorities.

The document surfaced as part of an Irish public television documentary that aired Jan. 17. In responding to guidelines developed in 1996 by Ireland’s bishops, the letter’s author stated that  “the situation of ‘mandatory reporting’ gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature.” The letter is signed by the Vatican’s representative in Ireland Archbishop Luciano Storero and orders the Irish bishops to see that the procedures established by the Code of Canon Law are “meticulously followed.” This letter in effect directs the Irish bishops not to report clergy sexual abuse to civil authorities, but to dispose of sexual abuse cases in secret proceedings inside the Catholic Church.

“The Vatican has always claimed that the church’s response to the abuse crisis was not dictated from Rome,” said VOTF president Dan Bartley. “In the case of Ireland, this letter proves otherwise. In how many other local cases did the Vatican intervene to put secrecy before the safety of children.”

VOTF believes this letter prevented the appropriate action the Irish bishops wanted to take in response to the scandal within their church. VOTF calls on the Vatican to disclose fully all other instances of Vatican interference in local church affairs around the world.

In a New York Times story today, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said this letter is “not new” and that, “They’ve known about it in Ireland for some time.” Colm Gorman, a victim of abuse in Ireland, contradicted Lombardi, saying the “letter was not known until its disclosure on Monday (Jan. 17) by RTE.”

VOTF maintains that the Church’s credibility will remain severely damaged unless the Vatican admits to what has been done in the past. The clergy sexual abuse scandal arose and was abetted not just by many thousands of individual priests, religious and others working for the Church who committed heinous crimes, but also by a Church hierarchy that has sought to protect its public image by enforcing a de facto policy of secrecy under the guise of adhering to canonical procedures.

In the RTE documentary, “Unspeakable Crimes,” reporter Mike Peelo said the letter “reveals how not only did the Vatican secretly block the bishop's efforts to improve child protection and bring abuser priests to justice, but were every bit as inept in their own handling of abuse.” RTE also interviewed VOTF Ireland member and abuse survivor Bryan Maguire and other survivors.

As recently as this past November, VOTF communicated with Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, subsequent to the cardinal’s statement that new guidelines for handling of clergy sexual abuse cases were being developed by his congregation. In its letter to the cardinal, VOTF called for:
• Timely lay involvement in developing these guidelines;

• Independent oversight of abuse cases; and
• Mandatory reporting of accused clergy in non-totalitarian states.

To date, VOTF has received no reply from Cardinal Levada. VOTF maintains that the Church cannot begin to recover from this scandal until every member of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church is held accountable for his role in the mismanagement of abusers.

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About Voice of the Faithful--Voice of the Faithful (http://www.votf.org) is a lay organization formed in 2002 in response to the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. VOTF now comprises 150 Parish Voice affiliates and 30,000 members committed to helping the Catholic Church.
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