Church dossiers on priests alleged to have sexually abused children have been destroyed or never compiled in the first place, according to a top Catholic cardinal. The move is likely to have enabled paedophiles to continue targeting victims.
“Files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed, or not even created,” said German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, cited by the AFP news agency in reporting of a Vatican meeting about tackling paedophilia within the Catholic Church.
“The stipulated procedures and processes for the prosecution of offences were deliberately not complied with,” said Marx, adding that this resulted in the silencing of victims.
Saturday marked the third day of a summit of top bishops brought together by Pope Francis in an effort to deal with a crisis that has enveloped the Catholic Church for years.
The latest paedophile scandals to hit the clergy have engulfed Chile, Germany and the US.
Delegates to the special summit in Vatican City heard statements from a woman who said she was repeatedly raped by a priest when she was 11 years old.
“I thought: ‘If I don’t move, maybe I won’t feel anything; if I don’t breathe, maybe I could die’,” the woman said, according to AFP. Her identity was kept anonymous.
Marx had personally apologised to thousands of victims in September for having been abused by clergy within the German Church, saying the perpetrators must face justice.
However, his public admission on Saturday about documents having been destroyed drew criticism from some quarters.
Peter Isely of the Ending Clerical Abuse (ECA) association said destruction of such paperwork was “illegal”, urging a full investigation.
“What he didn’t tell us is…Who did it? Where did they do it? And what did they destroy?” Isely told the AFP news agency.
In many cases, investigations have demonstrated that priests accused of abusing minors were moved to other parishes as bishops ignored crimes to protect the Church’s reputation.