One of the Catholic Church’s most prominent cardinals admitted on Saturday that files documenting child sex abuse were either destroyed or never existed, allowing predator priests to continue preying on victims.
“Files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed, or not even created,” Cardinal Reinhard Marx told a gathering of top clergymen at a landmark Vatican summit into child sex abuse.
Saying that the rights of victims were “effectively trampled underfoot,” Marx admitted that “procedures and processes” that could have led to successful prosecutions were “deliberately not complied with.” Instead, evidence was either “canceled or overridden” by Church officials.
Noting that there is no substitute for “traceability and transparency,” the cardinal added that the unwillingness of the Church to confront these crimes had left victims unable to trust the system and seriously risked ruining the Church’s credibility.
“These are all events that sharply contradict what the Church should stand for,” he said.
Marx’s admission comes on the penultimate day of a four-day summit attended by the Church’s top bishops. Convened by Pope Francis, the unprecedented conference is the Vatican’s attempt to reflect on and discuss the sex abuse scandals that have plagued the Church for decades.
The summit comes against a backdrop of several scandals that recently emerged in Chile, Germany, and the US state of Pennsylvania. Investigations into such crimes found that offending clergy were frequently moved to other parishes while bishops swept the crimes under the carpet to avoid damage to the Church’s reputation.
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