March 15th, 2010
09:33 AM ET

Vatican: Church never tried most priests accused of abuse

Catholic Church officials never prosecuted more than half the roughly 3,000 priests accused of sexual impropriety in the past decade, a top Vatican official has revealed.

There has been "no trial" in 60 percent of cases, mostly "because of the advanced age of the accused," said Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, head of the Vatican office that investigates crimes the church considers most serious.

The priests in those cases were subject to "administrative and disciplinary provisions" such as instructions not to celebrate Mass or hear confessions, Scicluna told L'Avvenire, the Italian Catholic bishops' newspaper, on Saturday.

Those cases include some of the most "sensational ... which have caught the attention of the media," he said, without revealing more details.
Scicluna insisted the priests in question had not been absolved of their sins.

"It's true that there has been no formal condemnation, but if a person is obliged to live a life of silence and prayer, then there must be a reason," he said in an unusually revealing interview.

Scicluna was talking only about investigations by the church, not by civil authorities.

The Vatican released an official English translation of the remarks, which come as accusations of child abuse by priests sweep across Western
Europe.

A damning Irish government-backed report into child abuse by priests led four bishops to resign in December, and Pope Benedict XVI is expected to issue a formal statement, or pastoral letter, about it before Easter.

The Netherlands, Austria and Germany also are facing new allegations of child abuse - including ones in a diocese once directly connected to the pope and to his brother, Georg Ratzinger.

The coming months are likely produce more sexual abuse allegations across Europe.

"It is like a tsunami or an extensive fire," said the Rev. Andreas Batlogg, editor of the German Jesuit magazine Stimmen der Zeit. "The estimated number of undetected cases seems to be far higher than the yet known ones."

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