The film claims Cardinal Ratzinger enforced the document for 20 years. It reportedly includes an oath of secrecy, enforceable by excommunication. The program said he advised Church leaders to encourage complainants, the accused, and witnesses to talk about abuse allegations rather than report them to the police.
Fr. Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer dismissed from his Vatican post after publicly criticizing its handling of child abuse, appears in the film, saying the document was an explicit written policy to cover up abuse.
But in a statement, issued on behalf of the bishops’ conference, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham explains that the document was not directly concerned with child abuse at all, but with the misuse of the confessional. Archbishop Nichols is also chairman of the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults.
"This has always been a most serious crime in Church law. The program confuses the misuse of the confessional and the immoral attempts by a priest to silence his victim,” reads the statement.
The statement describes the documentary as an "unwarranted, prejudiced attack on a revered world religious leader" and says “the BBC should be ashamed of the journalism used to create this unwarranted attack on Pope Benedict XVI.”
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