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SPECIAL: Pedophilia and the Priesthood

7/21/2007 - 6:00 AM PST

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"A Crime Against the Most Weak"


ROME, JULY 21, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is the text of a pamphlet on "Pedophilia and the Priesthood" written by Monsignor Raffaello Martinelli, an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and member of the editorial commission of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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Q: How does the Church evaluate cases of pedophilia committed by priests?

These crimes of pedophilia have been labeled as "a crime against the most weak," "a horrendous sin in the eyes of God," a crime "that damages the Church's credibility," characterized as "filth" by Cardinal Ratzinger in the memorable Via Crucis on Good Friday 2005, just a few days before being elected Pope. That filth is created by "many cases of sexual abuse of minors that break one's heart, and are particularly tragic when the one committing the abuse is a priest." To the bishops of Ireland, Benedict XVI in October 2006 stated once more that these are crimes that "break one's heart."

The most severe condemnation, a source of clear and unequivocal blame, is found in the words of Jesus when, identifying himself with the little ones, affirms in the synoptic Gospels: "And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea" (Matthew 18:5-6, Mark 9:42, Luke 17:1-2).

Acts of pedophilia are the responsibility of the individual who carries them out.

It has to do with individual cases: It should not be generalized. There are some 500,000 priests in the world, and the priests who have cases brought against them are a small percentage. Those that have been proven and ended with punishment are even less: Trustworthy, nonpartisan sources say the percentage is 0.3%, that is, three priests out of 1,000. It is necessary to distinguish between "delinquent" priests who have done and continue to do bad things, from the multitude of other priests who have dedicated and continue to dedicate their lives to the good of children and adolescents.

We must not forget that in some cases the victims themselves have subsequently retracted their baseless accusations.

It must also be said that even one pedophile priest is too many. He is a priest that never should have been a priest and he should be punished severely with no ifs, ands or buts.

The Church has been working for some time with its personnel (even priests, for example, in Italy Father Fortunato Di Noto, working with his association on Internet sites) and institutions to single out, unmask, condemn and overcome the phenomenon of pedophilia, from within and from without.

Unfortunately it must also be said that some bishops were mistaken when they undervalued the facts and limited themselves to moving, from one parish to another, a priest who was found guilty of pedophilia. For this reason, the Holy See decided in 2001 to claim for itself the judgment on those crimes.

Q: Which documents of the Holy See deal with the crimes of pedophilia?

The Holy See has put out two documents that deal with the crimes of pedophilia:

1. The instruction of March 16, 1962, "Crimen Sollicitationis," approved by Blessed Pope John XXIII and published by the Holy Office which later became the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was an important document to "instruct" canonical cases and laicize the presbyters involved in the vileness of pedophilia. In particular, it dealt with violations of the sacrament of confession.

2. The "Epistula de Delictis Gravioribus" (on most grave crimes), signed May 18, 2001, by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as prefect of the congregation. That letter's objective is to give practical execution of the norms ("Normae de Gravioribus Delictis") promulgated with the apostolic letter "Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela," published on April 30, 2001, and signed by Pope John Paul II.

These documents deal with the Church's internal judicial acts, at the canonical level. Therefore they do not deal with the accusations and the provisions of the civil courts of states, which must be carried out according to their own laws. Whoever has addressed or addresses the ecclesiastical court can also address the civil court, to denounce similar crimes. Therefore the action of the Church is not aimed at retracting these crimes from the jurisdiction of the state and keeping them hidden.

There exist two paths to ascertain and condemn priests responsible for acts of pedophilia: that of the Church, with canon law, and that of the state with penal law. Each of these two paths is autonomous and independent of the other: the civil forum and the canonical forum must not be confused. This means that, whether or not a ...

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1 - 1 of 1 Comments

  1. bill hartrampf
    5 years ago

    I would like to know more about the cooperation procedures between the Church and the local civil authorities.

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