A letter from 2001 has surfaced in the French media pertaining to a notorious case of clerical abuse and obstruction of justice. The letter, written by a Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, praised Bishop Pierre Pican for not turning a pedophile priest over to the authorities; a crime for which he received a suspended sentence.
At the time, Castrillon Hoyos was Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy. The commission is responsible for overseeing matters regarding priests and deacons not belonging to religious orders.
He was also a close collaborator of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is today Pope Benedict XVI. Castrillon Hoyos retired in July 2009.
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Pican ultimately was handed a suspended sentence of three months in prison for protecting the priest, Rene Bissey, from arrest. Bissey was eventually sentenced to 18 years in prison for repeatedly raping one boy and sexually assaulting 10 others.
Once again we see that martyring oneself to protect pedophiles and the church's reputation was valued and endorsed by a highly placed Vatican official; protecting children, not so much.
"I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil administration," Castrillon Hoyos said. "You have acted well and I am pleased to have a colleague in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and of all other bishops in the world, preferred prison to denouncing his son and priest."
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In it, the cardinal said relations between bishops and priests were not simply professional but had "very special links of spiritual paternity." Bishops therefore had no obligation to testify against "a direct relative," he stated.
The letter cited Vatican documents and an epistle of Saint Paul to bolster its argument about special bishop-priest links.
"To encourage brothers in the episcopate in this delicate domain, this Congregation will send copies of this letter to all bishops' conferences," Castrillon Hoyos wrote. [emphasis added]
The authenticity of the letter has been validated by Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi. He also attempted to spin it.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, in a statement late yesterday, said the letter showed the Holy See had made the right decision in May 2001 “to centralize treatment of cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.” The Vatican doctrinal office was headed at the time by future Pope Benedict XVI.
I would even call it clever spin... if it made a lick of sense. Here's the problem. Cardinal Ratzinger's famous directive came out in May of 2001. This newly discovered letter from Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos was sent in September of 2001. On my calendar, September always follows May by some months.
Cardinal Ratzinger's letter was widely interpreted as a call for just this kind of secrecy. As discussed here, Vatican officials have claimed that Cardinal Ratzinger's letter did not preclude Bishops from turning these cases over to legal authorities. What this newly discovered letter from Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos shows is that a bit of that "confusion" can be traced directly to him, and he was a close associate of Cardinal Ratzinger at the time. So, whether Father Lombardi realizes it or not, he's actually saying that Cardinal Ratzinger's letter was a call for secrecy and that Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos and Bishop Pican were following Vatican policy by extolling the virtues of obstructing justice.