The Pope

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 4 (July-August 2013), Letters, Letters, Volume 21

Sir,—Your editorial (HI 21.2, March/April 2013) on Pope Benedict XVI was factually incorrect, unbalanced and more of an emotional rant than a reflective opinion piece. What evidence is there that Benedict XVI ‘carefully choreographed his elevation to the papacy in 2005’? Perhaps most surprising is your contention that the Normae de gravioribus delictis 2010 were part of a Vatican attempt to cover up clerical sex abuse. On the contrary, the Normae initiated a long-overdue overhaul of the Vatican’s handling of sex abuse cases. Far from covering up allegations, the Normae de gravioribus delictis put in place clear and binding procedures for addressing all cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics in a consistent manner across the Church. Such cases were to be handled by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) instead of the various Vatican Congregations (of Bishops, for the Clergy, Religious, etc.) who were previously responsible, depending on the circumstances of each case. Under the new procedures, once a preliminary examination indicated that it was at least probable that an offence had been committed, the bishop was required to consult the CDF on the manner in which his own tribunal was to proceed. Far from removing the case from the scope of national criminal law, CDF procedure underlined that national criminal law was to be strictly followed regardless of the canonical process. The Normae also extended the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases.
You are correct that the then Cardinal Ratzinger was directly involved in the implementation of the Normae de gravioribus delictis but don’t mention that in 2010, during his pontificate, the procedures were strengthened and updated. Nor was any of this done in secret but was published in L’Osservatore Romano, while the CDF’s operating procedures for handling child sex abuse cases are published on the Vatican website. Far from being a cover-up, Normae de gravioribus delictis attempted to address the scourge of clerical sex abuse in a robust and appropriate manner. Surely it should be possible to offer ‘a contemporary edge’ in your commentary and still respect the historical record.—Yours etc.,

MARIE O’NEILL
Dublin 3

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