Vatican Spokesman's Note on Sexual Abuse by Clergy

«The Church Clearly Sees the Path to Follow»

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 14, 2010 ( Here is a translation of a note released by Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, which was broadcast by Vatican Radio, regarding sexual abuse by clergy.

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At the end of this week in which much of the attention of the European press was focused on the question of sexual abuse committed by persons and in institutions of the Catholic Church, we have three observations.

First of all, the line taken by the German bishops’ conference has shown itself to be the right road to take to deal with the problem in its different aspects. The statements of the president of the conference, Archbishop Zollitsch, after the meeting with the Holy Father, take up again the lines established during the recent meeting of the conference and reemphasize the basic operative points: admit the truth and help the victims, reinforce prevention and constructively collaborate with authorities — including the state judiciaries — for the common good of society. Archbishop Zollitsch also reemphasized without uncertainty the opinion of the experts according to which the question of celibacy must not in any way be confused with that of pedophilia. The Holy Father encouraged the line taken by the German bishops, which — along with the specificities of the context of their country — can well be considered a very useful and inspiring model for other bishops’ conferences who find themselves faced with analogous problems.

Furthermore, the important and lengthy interview granted by the promoter of justice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Monsignor Charles Scicluna, explains in detail the meaning of the specific canonical norms established by the Church in recent years to judge the very grave crime of sexual abuse of minors by ecclesiastics. It becomes absolutely clear that such norms do not intend and have not favored any cover-up of these crimes but, on the contrary, have brought about an intense activity to handle, judge and punish these crimes adequately in the framework of the ecclesiastical order. It is right to recall that all of that was put in place and launched when Cardinal Ratzinger was prefect of the congregation. His line has always been one of rigor and consistency in confronting even the most difficult situations.

Finally, the Archdiocese of Munich responded, with an ample and detailed press release, to the questions about the story of a priest who was transferred from Essen to Munich in Bavaria during the time in which Cardinal Ratzinger was archbishop of the city, a priest who was then held responsible for abuses. The communiqué sheds light on how the archbishop had nothing to do with the decisions after which abuses occurred. It is obvious, rather, that in recent days there are people who have tried — with a certain tenacity in Regensburg and Munich — to find ways to personally involve the Holy Father in the matters relating to the abuses. For every objective observer it is evident that these efforts have failed.

Despite the tempest, the Church clearly sees the path to follow, under the certain and rigorous leadership of the Holy Father. As we have already observed, we hope that in the end this travail can be a help to society as a whole to take ever better care of the protection and formation of children and youth.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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