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Europe

Vatican stands by churches' reaction to child sex abuse scandals

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-03-09

The Vatican stood by its national Catholic churches on Tuesday, saying they had reacted "rapidly and decisively" to recent child sex abuse cases, while adding that the problem of paedophilia doesn't exist solely in the Church.

AFP - The Vatican on Tuesday said national Catholic churches had reacted decisively to paedophile priest scandals while stressing that the sexual abuse of children is a "much wider" phenomenon.

"The main ecclesiastical institutions involved ... confronted the emergence of the problem rapidly and decisively," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement read out on Vatican Radio.

He added, however: "All objective and informed people know that the issue is much wider, and to focus accusations only on the Church leads to a skewed perspective."

"To cite just one example," he said, "Austrian authorities recently provided data showing that over the same period (of the scandal in Austria), there were 17 certified cases in institutions linked to the Church, while there were another 510 in other settings."

Several European Catholic churches have been rocked by scandal over "the very serious issue" of abuse of children by priests and teachers at Catholic schools, Lombardi said.

"The mistakes made by the institutions under the responsibility of the clergy are especially reprehensible given the educative and moral responsibility of the Church," he acknowledged.

But Lombardi insisted that Church authorities in the countries hit by paedophile priest scandals "showed a willingness for transparency and, in a way, speeded the revelations of problems by asking the victims to come forward even in very old (abuse) cases."

Charges of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in several European countries have rocked the Church in recent months.

In the most recent scandal, a German bishop on Friday acknowledged sexual abuse of members of a boys choir in the southern German city of Regensburg that was directed for 30 years by Pope Benedict XVI's elder brother Georg Ratzinger.

German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger on Monday alleged that the Vatican hindered investigations into abuse in Catholic institutions.

But Chancellor Angela Merkel praised the Church for taking the issue "very seriously."

The pope meanwhile is preparing a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics shocked by government investigations into abuse of children that found that Church authorities covered up for priests who abused children in the mainly Catholic country for three decades.

One priest admitted to sexually abusing more than 100 children, while another said he had abused minors on a fortnightly basis over 25 years.

In Austria, revelations that Vienna's then archbishop, Hans Hermann Groer, had abused minors between 1986 and 1995 plunged the Church into its most serious crisis since 1945.

The latest country to be hit by scandal is the Netherlands, where a newspaper last Friday revealed alleged abuse of pupils at a monastery school in the east of the country in the 1960s.
 

Date created : 2010-03-09

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