Calls on Pope Francis to establish an independent investigation of Vatican Files

Following on from our blog yesterday on Pope Benedict facing scrutiny over the treatment of paedophile priests in the diocese of Munich and Freising, in Germany, the We Are Church International network of groups have called on Pope Francis to establish an independent legal investigation of the files held at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (“CDF”) to determine the global extent of the cover-ups of clerical sex abuse cases.

In the statement requesting the independent legal investigation reference is made to state judges in Ireland investigating clerical abuse cases about 10 years ago who sought relevant files from the office of the Vatican’s CDF which the CDF refused to supply.

A commission of investigation chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy asked the Vatican for access to files sent from two Irish dioceses, it was ignored. The commission was examining the handling of clerical child sexual abuse allegations in Dublin’s archdiocese and Judge Murphy subsequently chaired a similar investigation into Cloyne diocese. In its 2009 report on the Dublin archdiocese , the commission concluded that over the investigation period there (from 1975 to 2004), “. . . the focus was on the avoidance of scandal and the preservation of the good name, status and assets of the institution and of what the institution regarded as its most important assets – the priests.” The report went on to say that  “. . . the welfare of children, which should have been the first priority, was not even a factor to be considered in the early stages”.

We Are Church also referred to the recently published German report on “Sexual Abuse of Minors and Adult Protected Persons by Clergy as well as Full-Time Staff in the Area of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising from 1945-2019,” which found it “overwhelmingly likely” that Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI was aware of at least four child abusing priests among his clergy while he was archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982.

We Are Church referenced how “in his statement . . . [to] this Munich report . . . [Benedict] did not tell the truth and severely damaged his own reputation.”

The group were also critical of Catholic Bishops in many countries who still deny that there are any cover-ups of child abuse in the Church saying that “…Every few years another country reports the same systemic pattern.”

While some progress and advances have been made in how the Vatican deals with clerical sex abuse cases in recent years the inevitable conflict remains at the heart of the problem, how does the Vatican protect the children at the centre of these allegations/claims while at the same time trying to protect the already fragile reputation of the Church in this area.

However, there does seem to be a certain inevitability to the Vatican having to consider some form of independent legal investigation/audit of the files held at the Vatican’s CDF and in fact the decision to do so may well be transformative in terms of improving the Church’s reputation overall.


Written by Suzanne Houghton at BLM (suzanne.houghton@blmlaw.com)

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