Colm O'Gorman: The Vatican values its position more than children's safety

Tuesday 09 March 2010 01:00 GMT

Revelations that Pope Benedict's brother may be called upon to testify in a church abuse scandal raise valid questions about how much the current Pope knew about the allegations. A more revealing line of inquiry would be to examine the extent of the pontiff's knowledge of the global clerical sexual abuse scandals.

In December 2002, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, suggested that media coverage of clerical sexual abuse was a conspiracy to bring down the Catholic Church. At the time he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In this powerful position he was in charge of managing cases of priests who abused children in any Catholic diocese across the world.

The Pope's brother appears to share the view that the emergence of the scandals has a sinister anti-Catholic church agenda. The Reverend Georg Ratzinger told an Italian newspaper: "I want to note that I sense a certain animosity toward the church."

Yet, following three damning reports which uncovered evidence of a systemic cover-up by the institutional church in Ireland of horrific crimes against children, the Vatican spin machine has gone into overdrive to distance itself from any responsibility. We've had the usual platitudes condemning individual acts of child rape as "heinous crimes" but we've also been told that the "failures" were the result of governance issues in the Irish church.

This is a blatant deceit. The only governance structure is that of individual dioceses reporting directly to the Vatican. Failures in governance are Vatican failures, not those of any "national governance structure". The Vatican has fought to ensure it remains unaccountable for covering up clerical crimes. Because if it admits responsibility, it exposes itself to potentially huge financial losses.

Many thousands of cases have now emerged. In Ireland, the US and Australia, there is compelling evidence of a cover-up which saw offending clerics moved from parish to unsuspecting parish while Rome stood by, failing in its moral obligation to intervene to protect children as the ultimate governors of a global church.

Even today, after all that has been exposed by those of us who have spoken out about our experiences of brutalisation, the Vatican refuses to act to properly protect children. As new scandals erupt in Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Brazil and Nigeria, the Pope has failed to put in place and enforce mandatory child protection policy across his church. I asked a senior church figure why this was the case. I was told that to put in place global policy underpinned by church law would admit that the Vatican had the responsibility and the power to do so, and expose it to lawsuits and potentially massive financial losses. So there you have it. It would appear the Vatican values its money and its position more than the safety of children.

Colm O'Gorman campaigns for justice for clerical sexual abuse victims and is the author of 'Beyond Belief', the story of the boy who sued the Pope (

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