October 3, 2006
More on Regula Sancti Benedicti—and saintly it isn’t:
The Roman Catholic Church and the BBC are involved in a furious row over a Panorama documentary programme, ‘Sex Crimes and the Vatican’, which was broadcast on BBC 1 at 10.15pm last night.
The programme accused the church of systematically covering up the problem, and directly implicated Pope Benedict XVI. But the Church accuses the internationally-renowned broadcaster of gross distortion and misrepresentations.
… The Panorama programme examined a secret document that apparently sets out a procedure for dealing with child sex abuse scandals within the Catholic Church. It claimed that Crimen Sollicitationis, was enforced for 20 years by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became the Pope Benedict.
The 39-page document, written in 1962, apparently instructed Bishops to deal with claims of child sex abuse through an approach which includes an oath of secrecy, enforceable by excommunication, which critics claim inevitably hinders outside investigation and prosecution.
Expert Father Tom Doyle, a canon solicitor sacked from the Vatican after he criticised its handling of child abuse, interpreted the document for the BBC. He said it explicitly covered up cases of child abuse and emphasised the “total control of the Vatican” while giving no mention to the victims.
Unsurprisingly, the church has thrown a fit. The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham and chair (I’m not making this up) of the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults fumed that:
“As a public service broadcaster, the BBC should be ashamed of the standard of the journalism used to create this unwarranted attack on Pope Benedict XVI. Viewers will recognise only too well the sensational tactics and misleading editing of the programme, which uses old footage and undated interviews.”
In reality, viewers will recognize Pope Benedict only too well—the hardliner credited with clamping down on dissent, covering up sex abuse, advocating abstinence as the best way to solve Africa’s AIDs crisis, despatching Italy’s fertility laws back to the Dark Ages, preventing nuns from ministering to gays, and attempting to rehabilitate the Crusaders. To name but a few. Nichols, though, inhabits a parallel universe:
“The film is a reminder to everyone of the need to work ceaselessly in the protection of children and in response to the needs of victims. The Catholic Church in England and Wales is doing so, with transparency and care, and, in every case, cooperating fully and immediately with public authorities.”
Of course: just as it always has. As Keith Wood, executive director of Britain’s National Secular Society, observes: “It’s a familiar technique that the Church is using, trying to make itself into the victim, so as to deflect attention from the real victims, the children.”
More on Benedict’s saintly past here.
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