A 40 year old edict approved by the Pope, and just now coming to light, is adding new fuel to the sex abuse scandal, which is rocking the Catholic Church. But, is the document being incorrectly interpreted? A lawsuit filed in Utah a few months ago, alleges sexual assault by a Catholic priest, and a coverup by local church officials. Now, a newly discovered document raises the question of whether coverups were official Vatican policy. News Specialist John Hollenhorst joins us from the Cathedral of the Madeleiene with details.
The secrecy policy was written at The Vatican in 1962. It was personally approved by Pope John XXIII.
The 1962 Vatican document revealed yesterday by CBS News is apparently genuine. The question is, what does it mean? It seems to set a firm policy of secrecy when priests are accused of sex crimes. But officials here say that's a misleading intepreration.
MATTHEW MCNULTY/ATTORNEY FOR CATHOLIC DIOCESE: "MY UNDERSTANDING IS THEY DO NOT DISPUTE THE AUTHENTICITY."
Attorney Matthew McNulty represents the Salt Lake Diocese. He says the secrecy policy itself must have been kept secret.
MATTHEW MCNULTY/ATTORNEY FOR CATHOLIC DIOCESE: "DIOCESAN OFFICIALS THAT HAVE BEEN IN PLACE IN THIS DIOCESE FOR DECADES WERE UNAWARE OF THE EXISTENCE OF THIS POLICY. "
An unofficial English translation was obtained by CBS. The document describes as "The Worst Crime" by clerics, obscene acts "with youths of either sex or with brute animals." A priest who takes advantage of a church member in a confessional relationship is subject to an in-house church trial. The document instructs all those involved "...to be restrained by a perpetual silence, to observe the strictest secret, ...under the penalty of excommunication."
Even many Catholics today were shocked and flabbergasted to hear about the policy. But Catholic leaders say it was meant to apply only to very narrow, unusual circumstances .
MATTHEW MCNULTY/ATTORNEY FOR CATHOLIC DIOCESE: "THINGS THAT GO ON IN A CONFESSIONAL PROCESS. THAT INVOLVE THE SACRAMENT OF CONFESSION."
And they say the secrecy edict pertains only to internal legal proceedings conducted within the Catholic Church.
MATTHEW MCNULTY/ATTORNEY FOR CATHOLIC DIOCESE: "IT IS RELATED TO CRIMES, CANON LAW CRIMES IF YOU WILL, NOT CRIMES OR VIOLATIONS OF CIVIL OR VIOLATIONS OF SECULAR CRIMINAL STATUTES."
Some of that is less than clear in the document itself. And attornies representing abuse victims are interpreting it as a "smoking gun" proving a church coverup. The Salt Lake Diocese says its own policy is to contact legal authorities at the slightest suspicion of sex abuse.Posted by tstubbs at August 17, 2003 11:18 PM | Trackback