BISHOPS SHIELD POPE AGAINST
The bishops of England and Wales defends Pope Benedict
XVI against the attack from the BBC's investigative news show “Sex
Crimes and the Vatican” broadcast Sunday by the Panorama saying
that it is unwarranted and misleading.
The prelates accused BBC of misrepresenting two
Vatican documents that the news rganization says Benedict XVI used
to cover-up the sexual abuse of minors.The program claims to have
uncovered secret Vatican documents that imposed silence regarding
all claims of child abuse, and accused then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
-- now Benedict XVI -- of shielding priests from investigation in
his previous role as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine
of the Faith.
"No one can deny the devastating effects of
child abuse in our society and the damage inflicted on the victims
and their families. This is particularly shameful if such abuse
is committed by a priest and it is of course legitimate to portray
heart-rending elements of this evil,"says Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor,
archbishop of Westminster on his letter to Mark Thompson, the director
general of BBC to "to express the enormous distress and alarm
of the Catholic community" regarding the program.
Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, who is also president
of the episcopal conference of England and Wales, further stated:
"However, your program sets out to inflict grave damage on
Benedict XVI, the leader of a billion Catholics throughout the world.
It is quite clear to me that the main focus of the program is to
seek to connect Benedict XVI with cover-up of child abuse in the
Catholic Church. This is malicious and untrue and based on a false
presentation of Church documents. "I must ask if within the
BBC there is a persistent bias against the Catholic Church. There
will be many, not only Catholics, who will wonder if the BBC is
any longer willing to be truly objective in some of its presentations."
Moreover, the cardinal said that he "cannot
understand why no one from your corporation made any attempt to
contact the Catholic Church in this country for assistance in seeking
accurate information about this matter."
In line with this, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of
Birmingham, and chairman of the Catholic Office for the Protection
of Children and Vulnerable Adults, also issued a statement today
in which he states that "as a public service broadcaster, the
BBC should be ashamed of the standard of the journalism used to
create this unwarranted attack on Benedict XVI."
Archbishop Nichols said that the program's attacks
against Benedict XVI are "false and entirely misleading. It
is false because it misrepresents two Vatican documents and uses
them quite misleadingly in order to connect the horrors of child
abuse to the person of the Pope."
The Archbishop added, "Viewers will recognize
only too well the sensational tactics and misleading editing of
the program, which uses old footage and undated interviews. They
will know that aspects of the program amount to a deeply prejudiced
attack on a revered world religious leader. It will further undermine
public confidence in 'Panorama.'
One document mentioned is "Crimen sollicitationis,"
(The Crime of Solicitation, 1962) issued by the Congregation of
the Holy Office -- future Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
-- which was made public in 2003. To this, archbishop Nichols said
that it is not directly concerned with child abuse at all, but with
the misuse of the confessional. This has always been a most serious
crime in Church law. The program confuses the misuse of the confessional
and the immoral attempts by a priest to silence his victim.
The second document, issued in 2001, clarified the
law of the Church, ensuring that the Vatican is informed of every
case of child abuse and that each case is dealt with properly. Archbishop
Nichols stated, "This document does not hinder the investigation
by civil authorities of allegations of child abuse, nor is it a
method of cover-up, as the program persistently claims. In fact
it is a measure of the seriousness with which the Vatican views
these offences. Since 2001, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then head
of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, took many steps
to apply the law of the Church to allegations and offences of child
abuse with absolute thoroughness and scruple."
A BBC spokesman announced today that the corporation's
management will respond to Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor's letter.