In my book Sacrilege, I said that they way tl abusehat American bishops mishandled allegations of abuse was so uniform that it looked like it was the result of a more or less explicit policy set by the Vatican.
Here is what an Irish documentary is reporting:
In a January 1997 letter to each Irish bishop, marked “strictly confidential”, the Vatican said it would support the appeal of any priest defrocked by the Irish church in connection with child sex abuse. It did so in a number of cases, leading to a threat of resignation by one Irish archbishop.
At a 1999 meeting in Rome the Irish hierarchy was reminded collectively by a top Vatican official that they were “bishops first, not policemen”.
The programme claims the Vatican and Pope Benedict himself failed to apply the norms of canon law to the issue of child abuse, one of the pope’s major criticisms of Ireland’s bishops. The Vatican failed to do so where two US priests were concerned and the pope did so in 2005 where Fr Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, was concerned.
In his letter to the Catholics of Ireland last March, Pope Benedict said to his “brother bishops’’ that “you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse”.
The Vatican opposed a recommendation in the Irish Bishops’ “Green Book” guidelines on child protection, published in January 1996, which said all allegations of clerical child sex abuse should be reported to the civil authorities.
The programme, by reporter Mick Peelo, also shows a “strictly confidential” letter sent to Irish bishops by the Vatican a year later, in January 1997, which expressed “serious reservations of a canonical and moral nature” about the mandatory reporting of such crimes to civil authorities.
An Irish bishop confirmed to the programme, on condition of anonymity, that he made a note at the time describing this letter as “a mandate to conceal the crimes of a priest”.
The programme also reports that at a 1998 meeting with Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy (1996 until 2006), then archbishop of Dublin Desmond Connell thumped a table in frustration as the cardinal insisted it was Vatican policy to defend the rights of an accused priest above all.
This was all under the pontificate of John Paul II, whom Benedict will beatify in a few months.
Castrillón Hoyos had also written a letter to a bishop praising him for not reporting an abuser to the police. Castillón Hoyos sent copies to all the bishops of the world.
The Vatican has confirmed a letter that shows a former top Holy See official praised a French Bishop for not turning in a priest accused of sex abuse.
The letter dated September 8, 2001, was written by Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, then head of the Congregation for the Clergy.
Cardinal Castrillón also delivered a copy of the letter, in which he praised French Bishop Pierre Pican, to bishops world wide.
Castrillón wrote: “I congratulate you for not having turned in a priest to the civil administration, and I am delighted to have a colleague in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and all the other bishops of the world, will have preferred prison rather than to turn in its son-priest.”
The bishop, who retired in March of 2010, received a suspended sentence for failing to report Father Rene Bissey who raped and sexually abused a dozen boys over the course of 10 years.
This was the policy under the soon-to-be Blessed John Paul.
I do not think that Benedict or other Vatican officials realize that these facts are available world-wide on the Internet, and will be brought out repeatedly when John Paul is beatified and then canonized: “Vatican Declares Pope Who Enabled Child Abusers to be Saint.”