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Vatican blocked bishops' actions against abusive priests before 2000, Australian bishop says

Catholic World News - June 25, 2014

An Australian bishop has testified that until 2000, the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy discouraged bishops from taking action against priests accused of sexual abuse.

Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide told a government commission that when bishops sought to discipline abusive priests, "the Congregation for the Clergy consistently made things difficult for them in trying to do that." He said that the Vatican dicastery regularly supported accused priests who wanted to remain in active ministry.

Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who was prefect of the Congregation for Clergy from 1996 to 2006, acknowledged in a 2010 interview that he encouraged bishops to protect priests from prosecution for sexual abuse.

The Vatican's response to bishops' disciplinary actions changed markedly in 2001, when then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict XVI) succeeded in wresting control of sex-abuse cases away from the Congregation for Clergy. Since that time, accusations of abuse have been handled by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has approved disciplinary action in several hundred cases.

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  • Posted by: feedback - Jun. 27, 2014 9:45 AM ET USA

    @Contrary1995 in comment below, you are absolutely correct; priests can be suspended by their bishop for any reason whatsoever. Also, the Congregation for the Clergy has never had the power to overrule local criminal justice in any country, and the Popes of the past century were not particularly deviant-friendly. Cardinal Mahony recently tried the same thing: blame "the Vatican" for his alleged inability to suspend sexually deviant priests under his jurisdiction.

  • Posted by: Baseballbuddy - Jun. 26, 2014 5:12 PM ET USA

    The Congregation for the Clergy "consistently made things difficult for them..." This sounds like a "soft" threat to the bishops. While they have the right to prosecute the abusive priests, Rome likely overwhelmed them with reasons not to. Very weak bishops, all the same.

  • Posted by: Contrary1995 - Jun. 25, 2014 10:47 PM ET USA

    As has been pointed out on this site numerous times, a bishop can take his own action against criminal priests without Rome. Each bishop has his own diocesan court where proceedings can begin to defrock a predatory priest. The archbishop is passing the buck and it is unseemly.

  • Posted by: jeremiahjj - Jun. 25, 2014 5:50 PM ET USA

    People will remember these abuses for hundreds of years. If I had to guess I'd say priests, bishops and those higher up the clerical ladder will suffer much longer than that. God will not be mocked and those who hid priestly abuse did just that.

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