Amerikansk TV-selskaps påstand om at Vatikandokument fra 1962 beordret taushet om presters sex-overgrep, tilbakevises

Oslo - (KI) Den 7. august sendte NTB ut en nyhet som formidlet det amerikanske fjernsynsselskapet CBS sitt "scoop" den 6. august om et Vatikan-dokument fra 1962 som angivelig skulle ha beordret taushet om presters sex-overgrep. "Vatikanet beordret taushetsplikt for alle parter når prester misbrukte barn seksuelt. Et hittil hemmelig dokument forklarer kirkens mangeårig taushet om spørsmålet", gjengav Vårt Land med bakgrunn i NTB-meldingen. Videre: "Den amerikanske fjernsynskanalen CBS har lagt fram et 40 år gammelt konfidensielt dokument fra Vatikanet som utformet den katolske kirkes politikk overfor prester som misbrukte barn seksuelt. Prinsippet var total taushet fra biskoper, ofre og misbrukere."

Allerede før CBS-påstandene ble bragt videre av norske medier, var de tilbakevist fra katolsk hold i USA som grov forvrengning av et dokument som handler om en alvorlig skriftemålssynd: "Sollicitatio" (når en prest i løpet av et skriftemål forsøker å overtale/forføre den skriftende til et senere brudd mot det sjette bud.) Dette - forsøket på å forføre - er en synd som samtidig er en kirkerettslig forbrytelse. Dokumentet handler ikke om verken homoseksuelle overgrep, pedofili eller bestialitet, selv om disse synder nevnes i et avsnitt om foretar en grenseoppgang mot tilgrensende eller eventuelt overlappende delikter.

Dokumentet forsøker dessuten ikke å forhindre at et offer for et seksualovergrep melder dette til politiet.

Ifølge en kommentar, burde det ved granskning av det aktuelle dokument ha blitt så åpenbart for CBS at de bragte videre en forvrengt versjon, at det er grunn til å spørre seg om fjernsynsselskapet har handlet i god tro. gjengir nedenfor i engelsk original tre av de tilbakevisningene som CBS-påstandene fikk fra katolsk hold, og der kan man også finne pekere til latinsk og engelsk versjon av det aktuelle dokumentet:


CBS news story distorts 1962 Vatican document (Analysis) Boston, Aug. 07 ( - A CBS network news report, claiming that the Holy See orchestrated a cover-up of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, is based on a gross misinterpretation of a 1962 Vatican document.

In a sensationalist report aired on August 6, CBS Evening News claimed to have discovered a secret document proving that the Vatican had approved-- and even demanded-- a longstanding policy of covering up clerics' sexual misdeeds.

The document cited by CBS does nothing of the sort.

In fact the network's story misrepresented the Vatican document so thoroughly that it is difficult to attribute the inaccuracy to honest error.

The CBS story is based on a secret Instruction issued to bishops in March 1962 by Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, then the prefect of the Holy Office (now known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith). That document sets forth the canonical procedures to be followed when a priest is charged with the ecclesiastical crime of "solicitation"-- that is, using the confessional to tempt penitents to engage in sexual activity.

[The Vatican document, in an awkward English translation, can be downloaded from the CBS News site. CBS also offers the Latin original.]

The Vatican document deals exclusively with solicitation: an offense which, by definition, occurs within the context of the Sacrament of Penance. And since that sacrament is protected by a shroud of absolute secrecy, the procedures for dealing with this ecclesiastical crime also invoke secrecy.

In short, by demanding secrecy in the treatment of these crimes, the Vatican was protecting the secrecy of the confessional. The policy outlined in that 1962 document is clearly not intended to protect predatory priests; on the contrary, the Vatican makes it clear that guilty priests should be severely punished and promptly removed from ministry.

It is important to keep in mind that the 1962 Vatican Instruction dealt exclusively with "solicitation" as that term is understood in ecclesiastical usage, under the terms of the Code of Canon Law. The policies set forth by Cardinal Ottaviani do not pertain to the sexual misdeeds of clerics, but to the efforts by priest to obtain sexual favors though the misuse of their confessional role.

It is also important to note that because solicitation takes place inside the confessional, only the accused priest and the penitent could possibly have direct evidence as to whether or not the crime took place. If the solicitation led to actual sexual activity, that misconduct could be the subject of an entirely separate investigation, not bound by the same rules of secrecy.

The crime of "solicitation" has always been viewed by the Catholic Church as an extremely serious offense, calling for the strongest available penalties. Cardinal Ottaviani stresses that any confessor who solicits sexual favors from his penitents should be suspended from ministry and stripped of all priestly privileges. These penalties apply to all cases of solicitation, whether they involve minor children or adults of either sex. The 1962 document is not concerned with all instances of solicitation; it does not concentrate on the solicitation of children.

The CBS report claimed:

"The confidential Vatican document, obtained by CBS News, lays out a church policy that calls for absolute secrecy when it comes to sexual abuse by priests-- anyone who speaks out could be thrown out of the church."

That is inaccurate.

While it is true that the Vatican document threatens excommunication for anyone who discloses the proceedings of an ecclesiastical trial for "solicitation," it does not bar the priest's accuser from making separate charges about the priest's sexual misconduct. In fact the document makes it clear that during the canonical trial, the accuser should not be questioned about any sexual activity that he may have undertaken with the priest; the accuser is to be questioned solely about what occurred within the confessional.

Thus, someone who was sexually abused by a priest would be free, under the 1962 Vatican policy, to bring criminal charges against that priest for his sexual conduct, while simultaneously charging the priest with "solicitation" in an ecclesiastical court. In fact, the Instruction from Cardinal Ottaviani stresses (in section 18) that every Catholic has a solemn duty to bring canon-law charges against a priest who attempts to solicit sex through the confessional. The importance of that obligation is underlined by the fact that a Catholic who fails to report solicitation is subject to excommunication. Moreover, the penitent remains under this solemn obligation to report solicitation even if the priest has already confessed his crime.

The document on which CBS based its distorted story is a densely worded 24-page document, couched in the technical idiom of canon law, and accompanied by a 36-page Appendix that provides the formulas to be used in an ecclesiastical trial. No careful reader could fail to recognize that this was a specialized document, providing a set of procedures for a particular ecclesiastical offense. Why, then, did CBS News draw a broad general conclusion from a tightly focused legal document? Why did the network fail to distinguish between the ecclesiastical crime of solicitation and the public offense of pedophilia? The questions are worth pondering.


United States Conference Of Catholic Bishops Responds To Reports About 1962 Vatican Document

WASHINGTON (August 7, 2003) - The Department for Communications of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has issued the following statement:

Crimen sollicitationis, a forty-year-old document of the former Holy Office (now, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), issued March 16, 1962, is being portrayed by some in and outside the media as a "smoking gun" allegedly proving that there was a "ground plan" for "covering up" the crime of sexual abuse of minors by clerics.

The essential point in response to those making this claim is that they are taking the document entirely out of context and therefore distorting it completely.

This document deals primarily with the canonical procedures to be followed when a priest is accused of soliciting in the confessional. Towards the end there is reference also to other crimes which are to be given serious punishment: gravely sinful deeds committed by a cleric with another man and "with youths of either sex or with brute animals."

The document clearly deals exclusively with ecclesiastical crimes and punishments found in church law. It outlines procedures for addressing ecclesiastical crimes which have already been designated publicly as such in the 1917 Code of Canon Law (see its canons 2359 and 2368). It treats these crimes very seriously and repeats the penalties for them. The penalties include dismissal from the clerical state.

The 1962 document has no bearing on civil law. It does not forbid the civil reporting of civil crimes.

Confidentiality, in the past and today, is often required in court procedures, including civil court procedures, for a variety of reasons--including not unnecessarily impugning a person's good name, the protection of the young or victims of assault, etc. In addition, the special nature of the crime of solicitation in the confessional (the most confidential forum of all), to which the document is mainly dedicated, has to be taken into account. The allegation of committing this crime is most serious since the accused priest cannot break the "seal of confession" to defend himself. Investigation of confessional matters must be done most delicately to protect the confidentiality of the sacrament of penance and the rights and dignity of both the accused and the accuser.

Perhaps most cited by those claiming a "cover-up plan" is the secrecy imposed on the person alleging to have been solicited. The document is not addressing the civil rights and responsibilities of that person. Instead, it is considering the good order of the Church's own internal life: the protection of the good names of the persons involved, the sacred nature of the sacrament of penance, the potential for scandalizing the faithful, etc.

To contend that the document is intended to create a "chilling effect" on reporting civil crimes is to attribute to it an intention it simply never had.

The document says nothing about the responsibility that the Church may have within the civil jurisdictions in which it lives and works. Then, as now, the Church is not intending to be exempt from reporting civil crimes to civil authorities.

As a document of the universal Church, it applied in 1962 to a world of quite diverse civil jurisdictions--to a free and democrat North America and Western Europe, a South America dominated by authoritarian dictatorships, an eastern Europe under totalitarian communist rule, etc. To suggest that it was intended as a "ground plan" for handling these matters in the United States (or in any particular jurisdiction) is ludicrous. Also, the applicable civil laws in the United States in 1962 were very different from what they later became.

The Second Vatican Council began later in 1962, and led to the eventual revision of the Code of Canon Law. The 1962 document seemingly had practical effect for only a short while. The process for dealing with ecclesiastical crimes was revised in the late 1960's and 1970's, and is found in the 1983 Code of Canon Law. This revised Code, which has been operative for the past two decades, treats the sexual abuse of a minor (and solicitation of a penitent by a confessor) as criminal behavior (see its canons 1395 and 1387), which may be punished by dismissal from the clerical state.

The 1983 Code's procedure for dealing with the sexual abuse of a minor has been addressed (and made more specific) in 2001 by Pope John Paul II, when he underscored the serious nature of this crime and required that it be reported to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In addition, the USCCB's Essential Norms of 2002 require the establishment of a review board, composed primarily of lay persons, to be involved in handling allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clerics. The Essential Norms also address the reporting of sexual abuse to appropriate civil authorities.

The 1962 document is also being treated as evidence of the fact that the "Church knew there was a problem." As already indicated, both the 1917 and the 1983 Codes of Canon Law publicly recognized the sexual abuse of minors by clerics as a serious crime which is to be punished with a serious penalty. The gravity of such sexual abuse is based on the Decalogue.

It should be pointed out that news reports are based on what is apparently a forty-year-old English translation whose origin and fidelity to the original have not been determined.

This statement was developed by staff and consultants of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and has been reviewed by the Chairman of the Committee for Canonical Affairs.

(Office of Communications, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20017-1194 (202) 541-3000)


NORMS-HERRANZ Aug-7-2003 (450 words) xxxi Vatican official says 1962 norms on solicitation no longer apply

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) - The Vatican's 1962 norms for handling cases of priests accused of soliciting sex in the confessional have been superseded by the 1983 Code of Canon Law and new 2001 norms for dealing with serious crimes involving the sacraments, said the Vatican's top canon law official.

Archbishop Julian Herranz, president of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, told reporters Aug. 7, "When a matter is re-ordered, the previous procedures are suspended."

The archbishop was asked about the status of a 1962 doctrinal congregation "Instruction on the Manner of Proceeding in Cases of Solicitation," a term that refers specifically to sexual misconduct suggested or carried out by a priest in the context of offering sacramental confession.

An attorney for victims of clerical sex abuse submitted the document to a Massachusetts court in late July, claiming it proved a Vatican-ordered conspiracy to cover up cases of sex abuse over the past 40 years.

News stories about the document in the Massachusetts press in July and nationally in August portrayed it as an instruction to bishops to keep every accusation of clerical sex abuse secret.

The document insists that the investigation of allegations of solicitation in the confessional and the trials of accused priests be conducted in absolute secrecy; however, if a priest was found guilty or simply "admonished" for unsuitable behavior and later was transferred to another diocese, the bishop was obliged to inform the bishop of the new diocese.

A Vatican official, who asked not to be identified, said Aug. 7 the document's invocation of secrecy was not meant to protect guilty priests, but to ensure a fair trial and safeguard the reputations of innocent priests and of the penitent making the claim.

Msgr. Francis Maniscalco, spokesman for the U.S. bishops' conference, said the document "deals with crimes against the sacrament" throughout the universal church and "is totally silent with regard to civil crimes."

In fact, he said, the document considers solicitation to be "so serious that a person is required to denounce the priest, and the result can be that the priest is removed from ministry."

Even a priest guilty of attempting to solicit sex from a penitent is "burdened seriously in conscience" to inform his victim that he or she has 30 days to report the incident to the bishop or face excommunication, the 1962 document said.

To prevent the violation of the sacramental relationship from remaining "occult and unpunished and always with inestimable detriment to souls," the document said, the victim must be compelled to report the crime or to inform a trusted person who would report the crime.


KI - Katolsk Informasjonstjeneste (Oslo), Vårt Land 8. august 2003; CWN 7. august 2003, Den amerikanske katolske bispekonferanse 7. august 2003, Catholic News Service 7. august 2003 (ct)
8. august 2003

av Webmaster publisert 09.08.2003, sist endret 09.08.2003 - 01:41