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Vatican cardinal praised French bishop for not reporting abuse to police

April 16, 2010

The Holy See Press Office has confirmed the authenticity of a 2001 letter in which the then- prefect of the Congregation for Clergy praised a French bishop for not reporting a priest who had committed abuse to civil authorities.

In acknowledging the letter by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the Vatican conceded that the penchant for covering up sex-abuse complaints extended to the Roman Curia-- at least prior to 2001, when then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger persuaded Pope John Paul II to refer all such cases to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for disciplinary action. Father Federico Lomardi, the director of the Vatican press office, remarked that the Castrillon Hoyos letter "is proof of the timeliness of the unification of the treatment of cases of the sexual abuse of minors on the part of members of the clergy under the competency of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, to guarantee rigorous and coherent action, as effectively occurred with the documents approved by the Pope in 2001."

Commenting on the April 15 statement, John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter observes:

In effect, the Vatican statement suggests that Castrillón Hoyos was part of the problem which then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, eventually solved.

After Father René Bissey privately admitted sexually abusing a child, Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux permitted Father Bissey to remain in parish ministry. “I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil administration,” wrote Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos. “You have acted well and I am pleased to have a colleague in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and of all other bishops in the world, preferred prison to denouncing his son and priest.”

In 2000, Father Bissey received an 18-year prison sentence for raping a boy and sexually assaulting ten others between 1989 and 1996. In September 2001, Bishop Pican received a three-month suspended sentence for failing to report the abuse.

Bishop Pican retired in March 2010 at the age of 75.


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  • Posted by: - Apr. 17, 2010 12:20 PM ET USA

    As i observed in a previous comment, the real issue here from the point of view of the operation of a local church in a parish is whether the Vatican considers each church a kind of embassy where the laws that apply are those of the Church and not those of the state. Only by considering this state of the law is that an action like the one praised by the Vatican bishop can be understood. And sooner than later this issue will have to be addressed, clarified and solved.

  • Posted by: Ben Dunlap - Apr. 17, 2010 12:36 AM ET USA

    I would like to see a good English translation of the letter. The excerpts from it sound pretty bad but it wouldn't hurt to see the entire thing.

  • Posted by: adamah - Apr. 16, 2010 8:24 AM ET USA

    Yeeaaaah. Real good. If any of my biological sons ever sexually abuse a child you can be sure I'm turning them in. This is just sickening.