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More media attention for 1962 Vatican instruction to cover up sex abuse

The Vatican instructed Catholic bishops around the world to cover up cases of sexual abuse, according to a 40-year-old confidential document that has received widespread media coverage over the weekend in the UK and the US.

The Observer in London says the 69-page Latin document bearing the seal of Pope John XXIII was sent to every bishop in the world. The indicates instructions outline a policy of "strictest secrecy" in dealing with allegations of sexual abuse and threatens those who speak out with excommunication.

They also call for the victim to take an oath of secrecy at the time of making a complaint to Church officials. It states that the instructions are to 'be diligently stored in the secret archives of the Curia [Vatican] as strictly confidential. Nor is it to be published nor added to with any commentaries.'

The document, which has been confirmed as genuine by the Catholic Church in England and Wales, is called Crimine solicitationies, which translates as 'instruction on proceeding in cases of solicitation'.

It focuses on sexual abuse initiated as part of the confessional relationship between a priest and a member of his congregation. But the instructions also cover what it calls the 'worst crime', described as an obscene act perpetrated by a cleric with 'youths of either sex or with brute animals (bestiality)'.

When questioned by The Observer, a spokesman for the Church in the UK denied that the secret Vatican orders were part of any organised cover-up and claims lawyers are taking the document 'out of context' and 'distorting it'.

"This document is about the Church's internal disciplinary procedures should a priest be accused of using confession to solicit sex," he said. "It does not forbid victims to report civil crimes. The confidentiality talked about is aimed to protect the accused as applies in court procedures today. It also takes into consideration the special nature of the secrecy involved in the act of confession."

The document was also the subject of an investigative report on CBS TV news in the US two weeks ago.

The Observer

On the manner of proceding in cases of the crime of solicitation (Document text)
Vatican 'ordered abuse cover-up' (BBC)
Vatican ordered worldwide cover-up of sexual abuse (Irish Examiner)
Report claims Vatican ordered priests to 'cover up' abuse (Ireland Online)
Explaining Crimen Sollicitationi (John L. Allen, National Catholic Reporter)
US TV network brings 1962 'cover up' document into the open (8/8/03)

18 Aug 2003