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Canon Lawyer Denies Code Silenced Sex Abuse Victims

The Irish Times - Monday, October 2, 2006 by Alison Healy

A Panorama documentary, "Sex Crimes and the Vatican", shown on BBC 1 last night, claimed that a church directive, which was updated by Pope Benedict when he was a cardinal, was being used to silence the victims of clerical sex abuse.

However, this was rejected as "misleading, totally false and wrong" by Irish canon lawyer Dr Michael Mullaney last night. He said it was a "misrepresentation and misuse of the document" and said the claims were "a thinly veiled effort" to malign Pope Benedict.

Colm O'Gorman, director of the One in Four charity for abuse victims, was the reporter on the programme and asked US canon lawyer Fr Tom Doyle about the 1962 directive Crimen Sollicitationis. Fr Doyle said the directive was "indicative of a worldwide policy of absolute secrecy and control of all cases of sexual abuse by the clergy".

The programme claimed the directive imposed an oath of secrecy on the child victim, the priest and any witnesses in an abuse case. Breaking the oath would mean excommunication. "What you really have here is an explicit written policy to cover up cases of child sexual abuse by the clergy, to punish those who would call attention to these crimes by churchmen," Fr Doyle said.

Dr Mullaney said the directive was about the misuse of the confessional. If someone complained about inappropriate behaviour of a priest in a confessional, then the priest and those dealing with the complaint had to treat it in a confidential manner because of the seal of confession. However, this did not prevent the complainant from bringing the complaint to the civil authorities if a crime was suspected. "The confidentiality is purely an internal procedure, as with any company. It in no way stops people from making a complaint to the civil authorities," he added.

The programme interviewed one abuse victim, AidaDoyle, who told how he was sexually assaulted by a priest at an Irish school. When he told another priest about it, the priest applied the seal of confession to the conversation, "so that you will never talk about this and it will be kept secret".

He said: "I was simply told: you don't talk about this again. It's over. You'll get over it. It will fade away in time."

The programme also heard from Judge Anne Burke, who sat on the US's National Review Board which examined the extent of clerical abuse of children. She said the abuse was endemic, with the same percentages of child sexual abuse in all dioceses.

Fr Doyle said the abuse and cover-up was not just happening in the US. "This is all over the world. You see the same pattern and practice no matter what country you go to." Mr O'Gorman also travelled to Brazil where he interviewed the grandmother of a boy who was raped by a priest when he was five years old in 2002. The priest had been first accused of abuse more than 10 years earlier and had been moved at least four times, continuing to abuse children in each parish.

Mr O'Gorman read extracts from the priest's diary which detailed how he targeted children. He sought boys from poor families, preferably without a father, and said it was very important to ingratiate himself with the family. "See what the boy is like and then ask the boy to give himself to me as payment for receiving a present," the diary read. Last year the priest received almost 15 years in prison for abusing this boy and another child.

Retired US district attorney Rick Romley, who convicted eight paedophile priests in Phoenix, told the programme: "The secrecy, the obstruction that I saw during the investigation was unparalleled in my entire career as a DA". When he wrote to the Vatican asking it to instruct three priests to return to the US after they had fled to Rome to escape prosecution, the letter was returned unopened, he said.


Panorama and Pope Benedict

Irish Times October 03, 2006

Madam, - Canon lawyer Dr Michael Mullaney has defended Pope Benedict XVI against a charge of using the document Crimen Sollicitationis to keep clerical child abuse secret (The Irish Times, October 2nd).

You report Dr Mullaney as saying: "The confidentiality is purely an internal procedure, as with any company. It in no way stops people from making a complaint to the civil authorities."

Dr Mullaney ducks the question raised by Sunday night's Panorama programme - a question that every Catholic parent in the world wants answered: What exactly is it that prevents bishops from reporting instances of clerical child abuse to the civil authorities?

In case after case across the Catholic world bishops have acted uniformly to protect abusive clergy, leaving the protection of children to their parents. As far as is known, there has never been a case of a priest abuser being reported in the first instance by his bishop for the perpetration of this dreadful crime. Instead, bishops make every effort to keep such cases out of the public domain, often thereby endangering other children.

There is every reason to believe that this policy would still be protecting people such as Brendan Smyth, Eugene Green and Sean Fortune in Ireland if the media and the civil authorities had not acted.

If the 1962 Vatican directive Crimen Sollicitationis is not the explanation for this uniform policy of covering up, what is the explanation?

To leave this question hanging over the church is to invite the kind of conspiracy programme that Panorama has produced, gravely damaging the authority of the papacy. It is also to bankrupt the symbolism of the bishop's staff of office. It tells us that the crozier, the shepherd's crook, exists to protect abusive priests at the expense of children. The Pope, as the supreme shepherd, is also compromised by this tragic fact.

Our church simply cannot survive such a disgrace. - Yours, etc,

SEAN O'CONAILL, (Co-ordinator, Voice of the Faithful - Ireland),
Greenhill Road,
Co Derry.