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Critics of the Pope are also focusing on a 1962 document entitled
Crimen Sollicitationis, which he updated in 2001 as Vatican head of
doctrine in De Delictis Gravioribus. Referring to cases in which
priests were accused of sexual relations with minors, the 2001
instruction said: “Cases of this kind are subject to the pontifical
secret” — a phrase interpreted by many in the Church as an instruction
not to alert the police to sex abuse claims.
The latest allegations undermine the Pope’s efforts to draw a line
under a series of abuse cases that have emerged in the past few
months. After official government reports revealed decades of abuse in
Ireland last year, cases have begun to emerge more recently in the
Pope’s native Germany, as well as Austria, Italy, Spain, Switzerland,
the Netherlands and Brazil. Last week Benedict XVI issued an
unprecedented letter to bishops in Ireland, saying that he was deeply
disturbed and “truly sorry” over years of abuse by Catholic priests in
the country, which the Church had covered up. He stressed that the
Church must co-operate with civil authorities.
Victims’ groups said they were disappointed because he had made no
reference to the Vatican’s — or his own — responsibility for cover-
ups. The Vatican has insisted that no cover-up took place and has
denounced what it calls a campaign “to smear the Pope”.
The growing scandal provoked a protest at the Vatican yesterday.
Leaders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap)
were detained by police after demonstrating on the edge of St Peter’s
Square, holding up pictures of Father Murphy and some of his victims
and signs reading “Stop the secrecy now” and “Expose the truth”.
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“The goal of Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, was to keep this
secret,” said Peter Isely, the Milwaukee-based director of Snap. “This
is the most incontrovertible case of paedophilia you could get,” he
added, flanked by photos of other clerical abuse victims and a poster
of the Pope.
“We need to know why he [the Pope] did not let us know about him
[Murphy] and why he didn’t let the police know about him and why he
did not condemn him and why he did not take his collar away from
Barbara Blaine, president of Snap, said: “I would ask the Pope if he
would please open up the files from the Congregation of the Doctrine
of the Faith and turn over all the information to the police. I would
also ask him to make a public order to all bishops across the globe
that all predator priests must be removed from ministry immediately.”
Inside the Vatican there was little sign that that was going to
happen. L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said that there
was a “clear and despicable intention” to strike at the pontiff “at
any cost” over revelations of how the Vatican handled clerical abuse.
Father Federico Lombardi, the Pope’s spokesman, admitted Father Murphy
had violated “particularly vulnerable” children in Milwaukee who
“suffered terribly from what he did” in a “tragic case . . . By
sexually abusing children who were hearing-impaired, Father Murphy
violated the law and, more importantly, the sacred trust that his
victims had placed in him.”
But he said that the Vatican had not learnt of the case until 1996,
two decades after civil authorities had investigated and dropped it.
The “decisive factor” in the decision not to punish or defrock Father
Murphy had been his age, his “precarious state of health” and the lack
of further accusations against him. Father Lombardi added that the
Crimen Sollicitationis and its updated version had not “prohibited the
reporting of child abuse to law enforcement authorities”.
Cases that link the Pope to a policy of secrecy
The Vatican argued yesterday that there had been no systematic cover-
up of clerical sex abuse and that the Pope was being criticised
unfairly . However, three incidents seem to link the Pope with the
Church’s apparent policy of secrecy:
1980 As Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Joseph Ratzinger presided
at a meeting about Father Peter Hullermann, who had forced an 11-year-
old to have oral sex and had assaulted three other children. Diocese
authorities approved Hullermann’s transfer to southern Germany for
therapy; police were not told. Hullermann returned to pastoral duties
within two weeks but it is unclear whether Ratzinger knew this.
1996 The Archbishop of Milwaukee wrote to Ratzinger, then head of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to ask that the Rev
Lawrence C. Murphy, a child abuser, be put through a church trial.
Father Murphy had molested up to 200 youngsters. The Archbishop
received no response but cardinals halted proceedings against Father
Murphy after he wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger begging for mercy
2001 Ratzinger ruled that child abuse claims must be handled in
canonical trials behind closed doors. Critics say it has done little
to stop paedophile priests from transferring to another parish or to
encourage reporting of abuse