Child sexual abuse inquiry criticises lack of cooperation from Vatican
The Vatican’s repeated refusal to cooperate with official investigations into paedophile priests and its delay in stripping convicted offenders of their clerical status has been condemned by the UK’s child sexual abuse inquiry.
In a highly critical attack on the papacy’s stonewalling response to decades of complaints, the lead counsel to the inquiry, Brian Altman QC, said it was “very disappointing” that significant evidence and statements had been withheld.
The approach of the archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, was also criticised after he belatedly admitted in February that it was “sobering” when he “began to see” the problem from the perspective of the victim.
At the start of its final, two week-long hearing into abuse within the Catholic church, the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA) detailed how it sought help from the UK Foreign Office to obtain answers from the Holy See to its questions.
The inquiry is keen, in particular, to discover more about the role of the church’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which is supposed to discipline priests who commit offences.
The Vatican sent some documentation but, Altman noted, “the Holy See has not provided any evidence about the role of the CDF and/or laicisation [the process of removing priests from the church] and declined to provide the inquiry with a witness statement.”
The papacy, he explained: “considers that the domestic laws of a foreign sovereign entity are not the proper object for a British inquiry”.
In many cases laicisation takes years, the inquiry was told. For example, a Birmingham priest, James Robinson, was imprisoned for 21 years in 2010 for child sexual abuse but it was a further seven years before he was dismissed from the priesthood. Andrew Soper, a Benedictine monk who went on the run on 2011, was not defro...