| 6.1°C Belfast

Vatican sets out US abuse defence

Close

The Vatican is to defend claims it is liable for US bishops who allowed priests to molest children (AP)

The Vatican is to defend claims it is liable for US bishops who allowed priests to molest children (AP)

The Vatican is to defend claims it is liable for US bishops who allowed priests to molest children (AP)

The Vatican will make its most detailed defence yet against claims that it is liable for US bishops who allowed priests to molest children.

It will say bishops are not its employees and that a 1962 Vatican document did not require them to keep quiet.

The Vatican will make the arguments in a motion to dismiss a US lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds filed in Louisville, Kentucky, but it could affect other efforts to sue the Holy See.

The Vatican's US lawyer, Jeffrey Lena, said it will include a response to claims that the 1962 document Crimen Sollicitationis - Latin for "crimes of solicitation" - barred bishops from reporting abuse to police.

Mr Lena said there is no evidence the document was even known to the archdiocese in question - much less used - and, regardless of that, it did not mandate that bishops should not report abusive priests.

He said the confidentiality imposed by Crimen did not supercede civil law and was applied only in formal canonical processes, which bishops had the discretion to suspend if there was a conflict with reporting laws.

"It is important that people - particularly people who have suffered abuse - know that, contrary to what some plaintiffs' lawyers have consistently told the media, the canon law did not bar reporting of these crimes to the civil authorities," Mr Lena said.

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

The document describes how church authorities should deal procedurally with cases of abuse of children by priests, cases where sex is solicited in the confessional - a particularly heinous crime under canon law - and cases of homosexuality and bestiality.

The lawyer behind the Kentucky case, William McMurry, said in a recent email that the document was "a smoking gun".

"It's evidence of a 'written' policy that demands no mention be made by a bishop of priest sex abuse," he said. "Since our case, and no other, is about holding the Vatican accountable for the bishops' failure to report to civil authorities, any policy that gags the bishop is relevant and material."


Top Videos



Privacy