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Secret Vatican document:
Background & BBC documentary

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According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) the Vatican issued a secret document, "Crimen Sollicitatiois" (The Crime of Solicitation) in 1962. 1 It was distributed to:

"... Catholic bishops worldwide who are ordered to keep it locked away in the church safe.

"It instructs them how to deal with priests who solicit sex from the confessional. It also deals with 'any obscene external act ... with youths of either sex'."

"It imposes an oath of secrecy on the child victim, the priest dealing with the allegation, and any witnesses."

"Breaking that oath means excommunication from the Catholic Church."

Excommunication is a very serious punishment. It prevents the believer from receiving the sacraments of the church. Since breaking this oath would normally be considered a mortal sin, Catholic teaching indicates that the ex-member would have lost their salvation and will spend eternity in Hell, which the church teaches is both a place and condition of permanent punishment.

Before he was elected Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger was a cardinal in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Its function "... is to promote and safeguard the doctrine on the faith and morals throughout the Catholic world: for this reason everything which in any way touches such matter falls within its competence." 2,3 For the 24 years that he headed the Congregation, he enforced the document. He is alleged to have issued an updated version of Crimen Sollicitatiois in 2001. It was considered so confidential that the bishops were instructed to keep it locked in a safe. In this version, a new principle was introduced: Exclusive Competence. All child abuse allegations were to be handled by the Vatican.  4

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BBC Program:

The BBC broadcast a special program in their Panorama series, called "Sex Crimes and the Vatican" on 2006-SEP-30. It was presented by Colm O'Gorman, who was raped by a priest at the age of 14. He initiated a study with the BBC in 2002-MAR which led to the resignation of Dr. Brendan Comiskey, the Bishop of the Ferns Diocese. Colm then pushed for a government inquiry which produced the 2005-OCT Ferns Report. It found:

"A culture of secrecy and fear of scandal that led bishops to place the interests of the Catholic Church ahead of the safety of children."

This program examined the document "Crimen Sollicitatiois" in public for the first time. According to the Evening Standard entertainment guide:

"The program also accuses the Catholic Church of knowingly harboring pedophile clergymen. It reveals that priests accused of child abuse are generally not struck off or arrested but simply moved to another parish, often to reoffend. It gives examples of hush funds being used to silence the victims." 4 [Spelling converted to American]

During the program:

bullet Patrick Wall, a former Benedictine Monk who once administered Crimen Sollicitationis in the Minnesota diocese, said:

"I found out I wasn't working for a holy institution, but an institution that was wholly concentrated on protecting itself."

bullet Father Tom Doyle, a Vatican lawyer said: "

"What you have here is an explicit written policy to cover up cases of child sexual abuse by the clergy and to punish those who would call attention to these crimes by the churchmen. ... When abusive priests are discovered, the response has been not to investigate and prosecute but to move them from one place to another. So there's total disregard for the victims and for the fact that you are going to have a whole new crop of victims in the next place. This is happening all over the world."

Doyle was fired, allegedly because of his criticism of the church's handling of child abuse claims.

The program found seven priests against whom child abuse allegations have allegedly been made, who are living in and around the Vatican City. One is Father Joseph Henn who is reported to have been indicted on 13 molestation charges in the U.S. He allegedly lost his fight against extradition and is reported to be hiding somewhere in Italy. The program also discussed Father Sean Fortune who was charged with 66 counts of sexual offenses relating to eight boys. He committed suicide on the evening of his trial.

In its web site, the BBC comments that

A few days before the program aired, Eileen Shearer, director of the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults said:

"The Catholic Church in England and Wales [has] established a single set of national policies and procedures for child protection work. We are making excellent progress in protecting children and preventing abuse."

The Catholic Church in the U.S. has created and is enforcing a child protection policy among all its dioceses. In the UK, there is the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children & Vulnerable Adults. However, the BBC comments that the church lacks a

"... universal child protection policy. ... In some countries this means that the Crimen Sollicitationis is the only policy followed."

The BBC also noted that:

"The Vatican has refused repeated requests from Panorama to respond to any of the cases shown in the film."

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
  1. Text of "Crimen Sollicitatiois," English translation, (1962) Pages 5 to 60, at: This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from:

  2. Article 48 of the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, "Pastor Bonus," promulgated by Pope John Paul II on 1988-JUN-28.

  3. "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith," The Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club, at:

  4. "Pope "led cover-up of child abuse by priests'," Evening Standard entertainment guide, 2006-SEP-30, at: Caution: when we viewed this article using a FireFox, Internet Explorer or Netscape browser, the browser consumed 95 to 100% of the CPU capacity of our computer, for no obvious reason.

  5. "Sex crimes and the Vatican," Panorama, BBC One, 2006-SEP-29, at:

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 Home > Religious Info. > Basic info > Child abuse > Crimen Sollicitatiois here

Home > Religious Violence > Child abuse > Crimen Sollicitatiois > here

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Copyright 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2006-OCT-08 
Latest update: 2006-OCT-08
Author: B.A. Robinson

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