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US pedophile priest's murder sparks comments from Vatican official

In the wake of the weekend prison murder of former Boston priest John Geoghan, a senior Vatican official has said the intense coverage of the issue of clergy sex abuse in the US is an attempt at "sullying the image of the Church," as if "someone wants to take away its moral force".

National Catholic Reporter Rome correspondent John Allen reports that the comments came from Archbishop Julian Herranz, president of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts.

Herranz granted an interview to the Roman daily La Repubblica on Tuesday. A member of Opus Dei, 73 year old Herranz, is effectively the Vatican's attorney general.

Geoghan, who was forcibly laicised in 1998, was bound, gagged and strangled on Saturday in his cell on the protective-custody unit of a Massachusetts state prison. He was serving a 10-year sentence on a sexual molestation charge and had been accused of abusing more than 130 children.

Herranz referred to the death as a "painful" incident. "As soon as I heard, I prayed for his soul and for his aggressor," he said.

Asked if the Holy See was succeeding in crushing the problem of pedophilia in the Church, Herranz said, "The drama of pedophilia is a problem that doesn't regard just priests of the Catholic Church, but the entire society. It's enough to look on the Internet. I don't understand why it's talked about only with the Church, as if somebody wants to sully its image in order to take away its moral force."

The reporter then said that priestly pedophilia in the American Church was a reality that couldn't be ignored.

"That's true," Herranz responded. "But pedophilia is only minimally identified with the Church, touching scarcely one percent of priests. Meanwhile for other categories of persons, the percentages are much higher.

National Catholic Reporter

Vatican official calls Geoghan murder 'tragic end to a tragic life' (Catholic News Service)
Muted Response Greets Murder of Fr John Geoghan in Prison (Catholic News Service)
Justice thwarted (Telegram & Gazette, Worcester Massachusetts)
The abuse scandal as a dark night (Fr Ron Rolheiser OMI, The Tidings)
Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts ( | Archbishop Julián Herranz Casado
Prosecutors probe sex abuse priest's jail death (25/8/03)
Timeline: Key dates in Geoghan's life (CNN)
Former priest Geoghan is slain (Boston Globe)
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston

27 Aug 2003