April 24, 2005

Pope 'obstructed' sex-abuse inquiry

Mail & Guardian

Pope Benedict XVI faced claims on Saturday night that he had "obstructed justice" after it emerged he issued an order ensuring the church's investigations into child sex-abuse claims be carried out in secret.

The order was made in a confidential letter, obtained by The Observer, which was sent to every Catholic bishop in May 2001.

It asserted the church's right to hold its inquiries behind closed doors and keep the evidence confidential for up to 10 years after the victims reached adulthood. The letter was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was elected as John Paul II's successor last week. ...

The letter is referred to in documents relating to a lawsuit filed earlier this year against a church in Texas and Ratzinger on behalf of two alleged abuse victims. By sending the letter, lawyers acting for the alleged victims claim the cardinal conspired to obstruct justice.

Daniel Shea, the lawyer for the two alleged victims who discovered the letter, said: "It speaks for itself. You have to ask: Why do you not start the clock ticking until the kid turns 18? It's an obstruction of justice."

Father John Beal, professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America, gave an oral deposition under oath on April 8 last year in which he admitted to Shea that the letter extended the church's jurisdiction and control over sexual assault crimes.

Posted by kshaw at April 24, 2005 07:16 AM