Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sex Crimes and the Vatican

Following the announcement this week of the Los Angeles Diocese's settlement of sexual abuse claims to the tune of $600 million dollars - a story that received less national news coverage than the Paris Hilton fiasco - the Vatican has released this statement:

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Sexual abuse of children is not just a Catholic Church problem and other institutions should take steps to acknowledge and deal with such "wickedness" within their own ranks, the Vatican said on Tuesday.

The Vatican's chief spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, also said the record $660 million settlement between the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and victims of sexual abuse was an attempt to "close a painful chapter and look forward."

"The Church is above all clearly pained by the suffering of the victims and their families, by the deep wounds caused by the grave and inexcusable behavior of some of its members," Lombardi said.

"It has decided to commit itself in every way to avoid a repetition of such wickedness," he said, adding that the Church now had a "a policy of prevention and creation of an ever more secure atmosphere for children and young people in all aspects of (its) pastoral programs."

The problem is that the Vatican does not have any policies that deal with protecting children in these situations and, in fact, Pope Ratzinger has been obstructing justice on that front for years.

But, don't take my word for it. Watch the Panorama documentary "Sex Crimes and the Vatican" online (38 minutes long) and judge for yourself.

Via the BBC:

A secret document which sets out a procedure for dealing with child sex abuse scandals within the Catholic Church is examined by Panorama.

Crimen Sollicitationis was enforced for 20 years by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became the Pope.

It instructs bishops on how to deal with allegations of child abuse against priests and has been seen by few outsiders.

Critics say the document has been used to evade prosecution for sex crimes.

Crimen Sollicitationis was written in 1962 in Latin and given to Catholic bishops worldwide who are ordered to keep it locked away in the church safe.

It instructs them how to deal with priests who solicit sex from the confessional. It also deals with "any obscene external act ... with youths of either sex."

It imposes an oath of secrecy on the child victim, the priest dealing with the allegation and any witnesses.

Breaking that oath means excommunication from the Catholic Church.

The Vatican keeps hoping that these chapters will "be closed" and they may very well be. Unfortunately, for those in charge, the entire book has not yet been written and it won't be until Ratzinger changes his policies and starts practicing what he's preaching.

Warning: That documentary contains graphic testimony by victims, family members and one convicted pedophile priest which may trigger trauma in sexual abuse survivors. View it at your own risk.

Lombardi reaffirmed a position taken by other Catholic Church leaders in the past -- that other organized religions and institutions should also deal with pedophilia as publicly as the Catholic Church has been forced to by various scandals.

And, even though the Vatican has been forced, (and why did it need to be "forced" in the first place?), it still refuses to cooperate with criminal investigations and for the Catholic victims who have suffered and continue to do so, that is the true indication of just how much the church values its followers.

h/t to D. Throat for the link to the documentary.

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