April 29, 2005

New pope accused of ignoring abuse

Vermont Guardian

ROME — The honeymoon may already be over for Pope Benedict XVI. The sources of the problem are a long-ignored 12-page letter about abuse forwarded to the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1997, and his subsequent decision to keep the investigations secret.

In the letter, Father Juan Vaca charged that Father Marcial Maciel, founder of a conservative evangelical order, the Legionaries of Christ, sexually abused him and other teenagers. According to Britain’s Observer, Vaca claims that the new pope ignored his charges because Maciel was a close friend of Pope John Paul II.

In 1997, Ratzinger was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican body with the power to excommunicate priests guilty of sexual abuse. Bishop John McCann of New York forwarded him the details of charges made by Vaca, who had outlined them in an open letter to Maciel.

Ratzinger took no immediate action, but eventually issued an order that investigations into child sex abuse be carried out in secret. A confidential letter, obtained by The Observer, was sent to every Catholic bishop in May 2001. In it, Ratzinger asserted the church’s right to hold inquiries behind closed doors and keep the evidence confidential for up to 10 years after the victims reached adulthood.

Lawyers representing abuse victims claim the goal was to prevent the allegations from becoming public knowledge or being investigated by the police. They accuse Ratzinger of “obstruction of justice.”

Posted by kshaw at April 29, 2005 08:07 AM