Wednesday, October 1, 2008

VATICAN SAYS LOS ANGELES SEX ABUSE 'DEVASTATING'

(ANSA) - Lorenzago, July 18 - The Vatican Secretary of State said on Wednesday that the amount of child sex abuse by priests uncovered in the Los Angeles Archiocese was "devastating".Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, speaking from this Alpine town where Pope Benedict is on vacation, said paedophilia by members of the clergy "is totally at odds with the mission that we must perform".The prelate, who is second only to the pope in the Vatican, was answering journalists' questions about the record settlement with which the Los Angeles Archdiocese on Sunday agreed to pay 508 victims of abuse a total of $660 million.Cardinal Bertone said investigations had shown the phenomenon of sex abuse by Los Angeles priests had existed on a "devastating scale".He added however that in general such abuse "involves a very small minority" within the Catholic Church.The Los Angeles settlement dwarfs other such agreements in the past. The Archdiocese of Boston, where the US child sex abuse scandal erupted in 2002, reached a deal with 550 people worth $85 million.The Los Angeles decision came just before the first of 15 civil trials in Los Angeles courts was to begin. The pre-trial settlement meant Cardinal Roger Mahony, leader of the US's largest archdiocese, avoided testifying in court.The church has faced abuse allegations all over the world in recent years and victims have alleged that bishops often knew of the abuse but did not take adequate action to stop it.Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said on Monday that the Los Angeles settlement was an attempt by the local church to "close a painful chapter and look forward"."The Church is above all clearly pained by the suffering of the victims and their families, by the deep wounds caused by the grave and inexcusable behaviour of some of its members," Lombardi said.The pope has rarely spoken openly in public about the sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church in recent years.'FILTH' IN CHURCH.Last October he said the Catholic Church must urgently rebuild confidence and trust damaged by clerical sex abuse, saying "the wounds caused by such acts run deep."In March 2005, when he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he denounced what he called "filth" in the Church "even among those ... in the priesthood." His words were seen by many as a possible denunciation of the clergy sexual abuse scandals.As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine ofthe Faith, Ratzinger enforced Church rules on how to deal with sexual abuse by priests for 20 years.He updated those rules in 2001 to deal more specifically with paedophilia as the Church was hit by a string scandals.The new rules said that suspected cases of abuse shouldbe immediately reported to Rome and asserted the Vatican'sright to hold all enquiries and trials in secret.The Vatican denies that secret procedures are designedto hush up cases or prevent victims from going to the police.PEM18-LUG-07 20:00 NNNN

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