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UK bishops angered by BBC attack on Pope

.- Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, president of the bishops' conference  of England and Wales, will file a complaint with the BBC over a recently aired documentary, which accuses Pope Benedict XVI of covering up child abuse by priests.

The cardinal-archbishop of Westminster intends to address his letter of protest to Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC.

The documentary, “Sex Crimes and the Vatican”, which aired Oct. 1 on BBC1 Panorama, claims to reveal how, in 2001, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, issued a “secret Vatican edict” telling the world's Catholic bishops to put the Church before children's safety, reported The Evening Standard.

It describes a 39-page document, “Crimen Sollicitationis,” as an updated version of a 1962 Vatican order which, it claims, laid down the rules for covering up sex scandals.

The film claims Cardinal Ratzinger enforced the document for 20 years. It reportedly includes an oath of secrecy, enforceable by excommunication. The program said he advised Church leaders to encourage complainants, the accused, and witnesses to talk about abuse allegations rather than report them to the police.

Fr. Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer dismissed from his Vatican post after publicly criticizing its handling of child abuse, appears in the film, saying the document was an explicit written policy to cover up abuse.

But in a statement, issued on behalf of the bishops’ conference, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham explains that the document was not directly concerned with child abuse at all, but with the misuse of the confessional. Archbishop Nichols is also chairman of the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults.

"This has always been a most serious crime in Church law. The program confuses the misuse of the confessional and the immoral attempts by a priest to silence his victim,” reads the statement.

The statement describes the documentary as an "unwarranted, prejudiced attack on a revered world religious leader" and says “the BBC should be ashamed of the journalism used to create this unwarranted attack on Pope Benedict XVI.”

The bishops said the documentary used "sensational tactics and misleading editing, old footage and undated interviews".

The statement says the BBC misrepresented two documents and "uses them misleadingly to connect the horrors of child abuse to the person of the Pope".

"The second document, issued in 2001, clarified the law of the Church, ensuring that the Vatican is informed of every case of child abuse and that each case is dealt with properly,” the statement clarifies. “This document does not hinder the investigation by civil authorities of allegations of child abuse, nor is it a method of cover-up, as the program persistently claims.”

The bishop said the Catholic Church in England and Wales is dealing responsibly with incidents of child abuse, “with transparency and care.”


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