Confusion of Church policy on sex crimes

Italian Bishops attack plan to air "Sex Crimes and the Vatican"

Italian Bishops attack plan to air "Sex Crimes and the Vatican"


Plans by Italy's RAI television network to air a BBC program on sexual abuse have been condemned by Italian Church leaders. However, the program is not certain to air because Mario Landolfi, who heads RAI's parliamentary oversight committee, has requested a ban on its broadcast. According to Landolfi, the program unfairly attacks the Church.

An editorial in the daily Avvenire, published by the Italian bishops' conference, accused the bloggers who posted the video of "calumny against the Church and the Pope.” The Italian version of Google has also posted the documentary which has become the most viewed video on the site, according to the Guardian.

The BBC program, "Sex Crimes and the Vatican," aired in England last October, drawing bitter protests from Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster.

The firestorm of criticism began when RAI made plans to purchase the program from the BBC and broadcast it on its "Year Zero," popular current affairs show hosted by Michele Santoro.

The focus of the BBC presentation is Crimen Sollicitationis, a Vatican document that was promulgated in 1962. The program described that document as "secret," and claims credit for exposing it, although the full text of Crimen Sollicitationis was published in 2001 and covered extensively by Catholic publications in 2002.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops responded to these allegations back in 2003 stating, “the document is being taken out of context, that it's a church law that deals only with religious crimes and sins. And that the secrecy is meant to protect the faithful from scandal.”

Crimen Sollicitationis covers canonical discipline for priests accused of the sexual misconduct-- including, but not limited to, the sexual abuse of minors. Because the document emphasizes the confidentiality of canonical trials, the BBC report suggested that the Vatican policy, and its enforcement by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, was an effort to conceal evidence of abuse. According to Avvenire, the BBC report missed the crucial distinction between canonical and civil trials, and noted that the Vatican document did not require victims of abuse to remain silent. On the contrary, paragraph 15 of the document "obliged anyone knowledgeable of sexual abuse committed in the confessional to tell authorities or they would be excommunicated."

The BBC program distorts the facts of the case, Avvenire said, in order to raise “accusations against Joseph Ratzinger of being the individual responsible for covering up the crime of pedophilia by priests."

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