Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cardinal Castrillon defends silence on abuse, invokes confessional seal

Cardinal Castrillon defends silence on abuse, invokes confessional seal
April 19, 2010
The former prefect of the Congregation for Clergy has defended a letter in which he praised a French bishop for withholding evidence of sexual abuse from police.

The letter from Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos to Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux caused an uproar when it surfaced last week, with journalists citing it as evidence that the Vatican had a policy of covering up evidence of priestly misconduct. Even the Vatican press office, in a public statement, said that the Colombian cardinal's letter, which was written in 2001, illustrated the need to change Vatican policy regarding sex-abuse cases. Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had pushed successfully for a new policy giving his Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith jurisdiction over sex-abuse cases.

But at a conference in Spain on April 16, Cardinal Castrillon defended his 2001 letter. He argued that Bishop Pican could not rightly tell police about the misconduct of a local priest, Father Rene Bissey, because he learned about it in the confessional. The cardinal also said that Pope John Paul II had approved the letter that he sent to the French bishop.

Cardinal Castrillon's invocation of the confessional seal conflicts with a statement from Bishop Pican, who told French prosecutors that Father Bissey admitted his abuse during a private conversation-- which, unlike a sacramental confession, would not be privileged under the law. Moreover, if the bishop felt that he was bound by the confessional seal, he could not mention the priest's misconduct to anyone, including Cardinal Castrillon.

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