A top Catholic cardinal admitted Saturday that Church files on priests who sexually abused children were destroyed or never even drawn up, a move which allowed paedophiles to prey on others.
“Files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed, or not even created,” German Cardinal Reinhard Marx told a landmark Vatican summit on tackling paedophilia in the clergy.
“Instead of the perpetrators, the victims were regulated and silence imposed on them.
“The stipulated procedures and processes for the prosecution of offences were deliberately not complied with, but instead cancelled or overridden,” he said.
Marx was speaking on the third day of an unprecedented meeting of the world’s top bishops which Pope Francis has called in an effort to get on top of a crisis that has dogged the Roman Catholic Church for decades.
The ongoing scandals have escalated to touch many countries across the globe, with recent cases affecting Chile, Germany and the US.
The cardinal apologised personally in September to thousands of victims of sexual assault by clergy in the German Church, saying perpetrators must be brought to justice.
That followed the publication of a damning report by the German Bishops’ Conference showing that almost 3,700 minors — mainly boys — were assaulted in Germany between 1946 and 2014.
The report’s authors said the figure was “the tip of the iceberg”.
– ‘Victims’ rights trampled’ –
Investigations have revealed that in many cases priests accused of assaulting minors were transferred to other parishes as bishops turned a blind eye to protect the Church’s reputation.
“The rights of victims were effectively trampled underfoot, and left to the whims of individuals. These are all events that sharply contradict what the Church should stand for,” Marx said.