Panorama investigates a secret document which critics say has been used to silence child abuse victims. Crimen Sollicitationis was enforced for 20 years by Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope.
Canon Lawyer father Doyle:
Crimen sollicitationis is indicative of a world-wide policy of absolute secrecy and control of all cases of sexual abuse by the clergy. But what you really have here is an explicit written policy to cover up cases of child sexual abuse by the clergy, to punish those who would call attention to these crimes by churchmen. You’ve got a written policy that says the Vatican will control these situations, and you also have, I think, clear written evidence of the fact that all they’re concerned about is containing and controlling the problem. Nowhere in any of these documents does it say anything about helping the victims. The only thing it does is say that they can impose fear on the victims, and punish the victims, for discussing or disclosing what had happened to them.
KENYON: The procedure was intended to protect a priests reputation until the church had investigated. But in practice it can offer a blueprint for cover-ups. The man in charge of enforcing it for 20 years was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the man made Pope last year. In 2001 he created the successor to the decree. In spirit it was the same, overarching secrecy with a threat of excommunication. He sent a copy to every Bishop in the world. But now he ordered that the Vatican must have what it calls ‘exclusive competence’. In other words, all child abuse allegations must go exclusively to Rome.
FR. DOYLE: It’s all controlled by the Vatican, and at the top of the Vatican is the Pope. So Joseph Ratzinger was at the middle of this for most of the years the crimen was enforced. He created the successor to crimen, and now he’s the Pope. This all says that the policy and the systematic approach has not changed.
KENYON: Cardinal Ratzinger’s new decree was a missed opportunity to modernise the church’s approach just as its biggest scandal was about to break in America. Colm travelled there to discover whether these were isolated cases sadly mishandled, or a Vatican policy of cover up.
COLM: At the same time as the scandals were erupting in Ireland in 2002, hundreds of cases were emerging here in the United States. A US report tells us that almost FOUR and A HALF THOUSAND US priests have been accused of raping or sexually abusing children.
KENYON: Its epicentre was Boston. The same stories repeated time and again. The church quietly shifting accused priests from parish to parish. Allegations of a systematic cover-up. Colm tracks down Patrick Wall, a former Benedictine monk who became the Vatican approved enforcer of crimen sollicitationis in his Minnesota diocese.
Former Benedictine Monk
I was part of the system that was getting chewed up and being used deceptively, and it was a real dark night of the soul. Everything that I had trained for, you know, well over a decade to do, I found out that I wasn’t working for a holy institution but an institution that was wholly concentrated on protecting itself.
KENYON: When a priest was accused of sexual abuse, the abuser was slipped quietly away, and Father Patrick was moved in.
WALL: Cos most of the cases never saw the light of the day, hence we were successful. That is really the ultimate definition of success for the church, when it comes to a case of sexual abuse of a minor, that no one ever finds out about it, that it gets shut down, that it’s kept quiet. If a pay off is needed, or if some kind of a settlement is needed, it’s done. We had a $7 million budget in 1996 to do such things. And.. but the thing that we had to have was a confidentiality order where it absolutely had to be agreed that everything was quiet. And you work with the victims as best you can, but the ultimate desire is to maintain stability, peace and calm, and the biggest thing you have to do is absolutely shut down the scandal.
In Britain the Catholic church has introduced a comprehensive regime of child protection guidelines. But such national policies have been piecemeal, and the Vatican has no global child protection charter in relation to abuse by priests. In America, despite the push for transparency, when media attention shifted away the church continued investigating allegations in secret, marginalizing the victims.
Father TOM DOYLE
There’s no policy to help the victims, there’s absolutely no policy to help those who are trying to help the victims, and there’s an unwritten policy to lie about the existence of the problem. Then, as far as the perpetrators, the priests, when they’re discovered, the systemic response has been not to investigate and prosecute, but to move them. To move them from one place to another in a secret way, and not reveal why they’re being moved. So there’s total disregard for the victims
This film was first broadcast on BBC One and at bbc.co.uk/panorama on October 1 2006>