Sex abuse cover up theory valid, says lawyer
Terri Saunders / Standard-Freeholder
Local News - Thursday, August 30, 2007 @ 08:00
A lawyer at the Cornwall Public Inquiry said Wednesday a known gagorder on victims lends credence to the theory the Catholic Churchworked hard to cover up allegations of abuse by priests.
In a 1962 Vatican-issued directive, all parties involved ininternal diocese investigations into abuse allegations were sworn tosecrecy. "If a component of a system of cover up isn't a severereligious oath upon the victim to remain perpetually silent, I don'tknow what is," said Rob Talach, an attorney representing The VictimsGroup at the inquiry. The directive, which church officials now say wasrarely if ever implemented in dioceses around the country, outlines howabuse allegations were to be handled. Priests, victims and anyone elsetaking part in the internal hearings were prohibited from ever speakingpublicly about the matter.
"The victim couldn't go to the police, he couldn't go to theChildren's Aid Society and he couldn't tell his parents," said Talach."If he did, he would be thrown out of the church
"If he did, he would be thrown out of the church. He would become an outsider."
Priests would have risked being ex-communicated if they dared go public about any internal sexual abuse investigations.
"They would have been in trouble," said Rev. Frank Morrisey,an Ottawa-based priest and canon lawyer. "The Vatican wanted an oath ofsecrecy from anyone involved in the case."
The 1962 policy was superseded by directives put in place in2001 which were not as severe. Morrisey said he doesn't believe manypriests would have had copies of the directive in the 1960s.
"Most people didn't even know about this," he said.
The document suggests anyone involved in the investigation was forbidden to speak about it publicly under any circumstances.
"(Matters regarding abuse allegations) are to be restrained by a perpetual silence," the directive reads.
"Each and everyone pertaining to the tribunal in any way oradmitted to knowledge of the matters because of their office is toobserve the . . . secret of the Holy Office."
The directive outlines how the alleged victims were to conduct themselves in relation to the hearings.
"The oath of keeping the secret must be given in these casesalso by the accusers or those denouncing the priest and the witnesses,"the document reads.
Morrisey said under the directive, diocesan officials wouldhave had to tread carefully when it came to conducting theinvestigations to reduce or diminish the amount of public knowledge inan effort to protect the interests of both the accused priest as wellas other priests who may be subject to negative public opinion.
"Many of these allegations were unfounded," said Morrisey,who said diocesan officials would have tried to protect the accusedpriest's reputation when possible, "or at least exaggerated."
In 1992, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishopsendorsed a report from an ad hoc committee on sexual abuse by clergycalled From Pain to Hope. In that report, emphasis was placed on theneed for greater transparency and openness on the part of the churchwhen it comes to these types of allegations.
On Tuesday, Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic DioceseBishop issued a press release about a priest against whom an internalcomplaint of sexual abuse had been received. Although the matter is notthe subject of external investigations, and local Bishop Paul-AndreDurocher suggested the decision to release the information to thecommunity was in part due to the recommendations contained in the 1992report.
"One of the objectives of 'From Pain to Hope' was toovercome the shroud of secrecy around these issues," Durocher told theStandard-Freeholder.
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.Pedophilia and sexual abuse of children in Australia