Thursday, August 7, 2003

Vatican Set Policy on Secrecy Concerning Sexual Abuse by Priests?

This report from CBS News quotes from a 1962 document written in the Vatican, and claims that the document outlines a strategy for keeping sexual abuse by priests secret, under threat of excommunication from the Catholic Church.
The document, once "stored in the secret archives" of the Vatican, focuses on crimes initiated as part of the confessional relationship and what it calls the "worst crime": sexual assault committed by a priest" or "attempted by him with youths of either sex or with brute animals."

Bishops are instructed to pursue these cases "in the most secretive way...restrained by a perpetual silence...and everyone {including the alleged victim) to observe the strictest secret, which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office...under the penalty of excommunication."

Larry Drivon, a lawyer who represents alleged victims, said, “This document is significant because it's a blueprint for deception.”

Drivon said the document proves what he has alleged on behalf of victims in priest-abuse lawsuits: that the church engaged in Mafia-style behavior -- racketeering.
Regular readers of my blog will know that I am not impressed with the Catholic Church's behavior in this area; it is something of a toss-up as to which organization has done more damage to children: the North American Man-Boy Love Association, or the Catholic Church's cover-up of child molesting priests. No, I'm not being flippant when I write this. NAMBLA is pure evil, but their numbers are small; the Catholic Church's perpetually pederastic priests seem to be legion (I picked that word "legion" for a reason), and they have been abusing children for at least decades in North America.

Nonetheless, reading this news report, and what it quotes from the 1962 document, I don't see the smoking gun that the report suggests. I can imagine several other contexts for the quoted text that are far less damaging. The Catholic Church should release the entire document in question, immediately, for independent evaluation.

UPDATE: As I said above, it doesn't sound the 1962 document says quite was CBS says it says. Here is an alternative explanation that suggests CBS's problem was a bit more serious than just careless reading.