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Vatican responds to media distortions on Tucson abuse cases

Catholic World News - April 05, 2010

In an extraordinary display of media bias, the Associated Press has reported that “the abuse cases of two priests in Arizona have cast further doubt on the Catholic church's insistence that Pope Benedict XVI played no role in shielding pedophiles before he became pope.”

Far from “shielding pedophiles,” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s direction, ruled that the two priests-- Fathers Michael Teta and Robert Trupia-- be removed from the priesthood, as Catholic World News had earlier reported. Both priests exercised their right to lengthy canonical appeals of earlier disciplinary actions, but were suspended from ministry during that time.

Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, issued a statement on the Teta case.

“The Diocese of Tucson contacted the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding the case, because it regarded the canonical crime of solicitation in the confessional,” he said. “The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith took an active interest in the case throughout the 1990’s, in order to guarantee that the Church trial underway in the Diocese of Tucson was properly completed. The trial was completed in 1997. The cleric in question was found guilty and laicized. The evidence clearly and certainly shows this.”

Father Teta’s “appeal reached the Congregation Tribunal during a period in which the revision of the canonical norms previously in force had already started,” Father Lombardi continued. “The appeals were therefore pending until the entry into force of new legislation in 2001, which resulted in all cases of ‘serious crimes’ being placed under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for a faster and more secure treatment.”

“Beginning in 2001, all pending appeals have been handled promptly, and the Teta appeal was one of the first to be handled,” Father Lombardi added. “This took time, because there was a particularly large volume of documentation. In any case, the decision of the trial court was confirmed in toto, and Teta was defrocked in 2004.”

“It must not be forgotten that even when appeals are pending and the sentence is suspended, precautionary measures are imposed by the bishop on the accused. Indeed, Teta had been suspended from the exercise of priestly ministry in 1990.”

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