Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Italian trust in Catholic church plunges as Vatican makes strongest defence against U.S. child molestation claims yet

Italian trust in Catholic church plunges as Vatican makes strongest defence against U.S. child molestation claims yet
By Nick Pisa
Last updated at 6:13 AM on 18th May 2010

Trust in Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church has plummeted In Italy following a series of sex abuse scandals, it was revealed yesterday.
The Catholic church has been rocked by paedophile priest cases in Ireland, America, Austria and Germany over the last few months.

Trust in the Pope and his church has fallen below the 50 per cent watershed in ‘his own back garden’, according to research by think-tank Demos & PI.
Under fire: Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd gathered below in Saint Peter's square during his weekly Angelus blessing at the Vatican
A church source said: 'To be below 50 per cent is worrying but it is probably just a trend, a blip that will be overcome.'

The survey was commissioned by Italian newspaper La Repubblica and came just hours after more than 150,000 people attended a rally for Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican to give the embattled pontiff support.

More...Tens of thousands of pilgrims flock to candlelit vigil with Pope Benedict at the shrine of Fatima

Pope Benedict himself has even been drawn into the controversy with claims that he 'dragged his heels' over a case involving a German priest when he was Archbishop of Munich in the early 1980s.
Both he and the Vatican have been accused of not doing enough to speak out against the issue although in recent days the Pope has condemned paedophile priests and last month on a visit to Malta in an attempt to show public sympathy he met with several abuse victims.
But despite his attempt to show support the survey appeared to show that Pope Benedict appeared to have lost the trust of the majority of Italians in his 'own back garden', as one Catholic commentator put it.
The figures showed a massive 77.2 per cent of people had faith in the late Pope John Paul II in 2003 whereas currently and just seven years later, only 46.6 per cent trusted his successor Pope Benedict.
The Vatican today made its most detailed defence yet against claims that it is liable for U.S. bishops who allowed priests to molest children.
It said bishops are not its employees and that a 1962 Vatican document did not require them to keep quiet.
The Vatican made the arguments in a motion to dismiss a U.S. lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds filed in Louisville, Kentucky, but it could affect other efforts to sue the Holy See.
Back up: 150,000 people attended a rally for Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican to give the embattled pontiff support
The Vatican's U.S. lawyer, Jeffrey Lena, said it included a response to claims that the 1962 document Crimen Sollicitationis - Latin for 'crimes of solicitation' - barred bishops from reporting abuse to police.
Mr Lena said last night there was no evidence the document was even known to the archdiocese in question - much less used - and, regardless of that, it did not mandate that bishops should not report abusive priests.
He said the confidentiality imposed by Crimen did not supercede civil law and was applied only in formal canonical processes, which bishops had the discretion to suspend if there was a conflict with reporting laws.
'It is important that people - particularly people who have suffered abuse - know that, contrary to what some plaintiffs' lawyers have consistently told the media, the canon law did not bar reporting of these crimes to the civil authorities,' Mr Lena said.
The document describes how church authorities should deal procedurally with cases of abuse of children by priests, cases where sex is solicited in the confessional - a particularly heinous crime under canon law - and cases of homosexuality and bestiality.
The lawyer behind the Kentucky case, William McMurry, said in a recent email that the document was 'a smoking gun'.
'It's evidence of a 'written' policy that demands no mention be made by a bishop of priest sex abuse,' he said.

'Since our case, and no other, is about holding the Vatican accountable for the bishops' failure to report to civil authorities, any policy that gags the bishop is relevant and material.'
The Holy See is trying to fend off the first U.S. case to reach the stage of determining whether victims actually have a claim against the Vatican itself for negligence for the failure of bishops to alert police or the public about Roman Catholic priests who molested children.
Defence: The Vatican outlined their defence claims that it is liable for US bishops who allowed priests to molest children
The case was filed in 2004 by three men who claim they were abused by priests decades ago and claim negligence by the Vatican.
Mr McMurry is seeking class-action status for the case, saying there are thousands of victims across the country. McMurry also represented 243 sex abuse victims who settled with the Archdiocese of Louisville in 2003 for £17.5million.
The Vatican is seeking to dismiss the suit before Pope Benedict XVI can be questioned or documents subpoenaed.
Its motion is being closely watched as the clerical abuse scandal swirls around the Holy See, since the court's eventual decision could have implications for a lawsuit naming top Vatican officials that was recently filed in Wisconsin and another one in Oregon is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Vatican was expected to assert that bishops are not its employees because they are not paid by Rome, do not act on Rome's behalf and are not controlled day to day by the Pope - factors courts use to determine whether employers are liable for the actions of their employees, Mr Lena said.
He said he would suggest to the court that it should avoid using the religious nature of the relationship between bishops and the Pope as a basis for civil liability because it entangled the court in an analysis of religious doctrine that dated back to the apostles.
'He (Mr McMurry) wishes to invoke religious authority to construct a civil employment relationship, and our view is that it's an inappropriate invitation to the court to consider religious doctrine,' Mr Lena said.
'Courts tend to avoid constructing civil relationships out of religious materials.'
Mr McMurry has said that the Vatican had clear and direct control over bishops, mandated a policy of secrecy, and is therefore liable for the bishops' failure to report abuse. He is seeking unspecified damages.

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