Vatican warns on abuse cover-ups

Hiding behind a culture of “omerta” — the Italian word for the Mafia’s code of silence — would be deadly for the Catholic Church, the Vatican’s top official for dealing with sexual abuse of minors by clergy has said.

Monsignor Charles Scicluna made the unusually forthright comment in his speech to a landmark symposium in Rome on the sexual abuse crisis that has rocked the Church.

“The teaching... that truth is at the basis of justice explains why a deadly culture of silence, or ‘omerta,’ is in itself wrong and unjust,” Scicluna said in his address to the four-day symposium, which brings together 200 people — bishops, leaders of religious orders, victims of abuse and psychologists.

Rarely, if ever, has a Vatican official used the word “omerta” — a serious accusation in Italian — to compare the reluctance of some in the Church to come clean on the abuse scandal.

“Other enemies of the truth are the deliberate denial of known facts and the misplaced concern that the good name of the institution should somehow enjoy absolute priority to the detriment of disclosure,” Scicluna said.

Victims groups have for years accused some bishops in the Church of preferring silence and cover-up to coming clean on the scandal, which has sullied the image of the Church around the world, particularly in the United States.

Scicluna, a Maltese whose formal title is “justice promoter” in the Vatican’s doctrinal department, is the Vatican’s point man for dealing with cases of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.

The message from Scicluna and other Vatican officials at the symposium is that local Church officials must cooperate with civil authorities in cases of suspected paedophilia.


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