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Vatican rejects 'wall of silence' charge on sex-abuse complaints

March 09, 2010

The Vatican has released a statement defending Church responses to sex-abuse complaints, and rejecting the charge by a German cabinet member that the Vatican was building a "wall of silence" on the issue.

Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, the director of the Vatican press office, said that bishops in Germany, Austria, and Holland had responded with "timely and decisive action" to recent reports of sexual abuse. The bishops in these countries had shown a "desire for transparency" by inviting abuse victims to come forward with their stories, he said. He continued:

By doing so they have approached the matter 'on the right foot,' because the correct starting point is recognition of what happened and concern for the victims and the consequences of the acts committed against them.

Father Lombardi said that Church leaders in those countries would formulate new policies to guard against abuse in the future. He recalled that Pope Benedict had recently met with the bishops of Ireland to discuss the abuse problems there, and would soon release a letter to the Irish Church on the subject.

The Vatican spokesman reserved his strongest language for the situation in Germany, where justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger had charged that the Vatican was building a "wall of silence" around the abuse problem. Using virtually the same words, Father Lombardi said that the 2001 Vatican policy on handling of sex-abuse cases is "sometimes improperly cited as the cause of a 'culture of silence.'" He went on: "Those who know and understand its contents, are aware that it was a decisive signal to remind the episcopate of the seriousness of the problem, as well as a real incentive to draw up operational guidelines to face it."

In Germany, he said, Church leaders have indicated their willingness to join in a national roundtable on the abuse issue, and "Chancellor Angela Merkel had justly recognized the seriousness and constructive approach shown by the German Church."

Father Lombardi issued a reminder that the Catholic Church has not been the only institution shaken by revelations of sexual abuse. In Austria, for example, he noted that among 510 recent reports of abuse, only 17 have involved Church-related institutions. He said:

Certainly, the errors committed in ecclesiastical institutions and by Church figures are particularly reprehensible because of the Church's educational and moral responsibility, but all objective and well-informed people know that the question is much broader, and concentrating accusations against the Church alone gives a false perspective.


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Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Bernadette - Mar. 10, 2010 12:45 PM ET USA

    The bishops in the U.S. still continue to call it "pedophilia" which means an attraction by adults to children (male and female). For the most part, the sexual abuse in the Church has been with young boys, preteen and up, and the problem is homosexuality. For some reason, they do not want to address the homosexuality issue. I wonder why...

  • Posted by: New Sister - Mar. 09, 2010 7:26 PM ET USA

    The only wall of silence will be by the media and "Politically Correct" forces in the Church (such as the Bishop of Frieburg) -- they will be silent about the undeniable CAUSE of the abuse, i.e., homosexuality.