In a separate statement, the Vatican’s U.S. lawyer charged that the plaintiff’s attorneys “orchestrated a press event replete with props and other trappings designed to induce a media feeding frenzy.”
The attorneys’ claims of conspiracy, Lena charged, were the “centerpiece of a planned sequence of media events” that used the sexual abuse of a child to assert “fallacious allegations” against the Holy See.
Lena specifically criticized the attorneys’ portrayal of the 1922 Vatican document “Crimen sollicitationis” as forbidding the reporting of sexual abuse to civil authorities. He said that the document, later revised in 1962, was itself the first “reporting statue.”
It could not have been designed to prevent abuse reporting because there were no civil reporting statutes at the time the document was written, he said. The document dealt with obligations under Church law, not civil law, and did not bar reporting incidents of suspected sexual abuse.
“Mythology about the Catholic Church to the contrary, the Holy See is not responsible for the supervision of the more than 400,000 priests around the world,” Lena noted. “Attorneys in this case knew that, and their knowledge of this fact is precisely what made the filing of this lawsuit so pernicious in the first place.”
The Holy See’s lawyer urged others to remember that the plaintiff was “terribly abused” as a boy.
“As Pope Benedict XVI has repeatedly said, abuse – whether in public or private institutions, by whomever, and of whatever creed or religious affiliation – is a sin and a crime.”
Fr. Murphy, the priest involved in the abuse, died in 1998 amid a canonical trial hindered by a lack of proper records from the archdiocese. While the Holy See agreed to suspend a canonical trial seeking to remove him from the clerical state, it did not rule out laicizing him, contrary to media reports.
As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the future Pope Benedict XVI had limited jurisdiction over sex abuse cases until 2001, when the Roman Rota transferred responsibility to his congregation. Before that time, he became involved in abuse cases only when they allegedly took place in the confessional or involved violations of the Sacrament of Penance, as happened to several victims of Fr. Murphy.