Jamie Doward, religious affairs correspondent
Sunday April 24, 2005
Pope 'obstructed' sex abuse inquiry
Pope Benedict XVI faced claims last night he had 'obstructed justice' after it emerged he issued an order ensuring the church's investigations into child sex abuse claims be carried out in secret.
The order was made in a confidential letter, obtained by The Observer, which was sent to every Catholic bishop in May 2001.
It asserted the church's right to hold its inquiries behind closed doors and keep the evidence confidential for up to 10 years after the victims reached adulthood. The letter was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was elected as John Paul II's successor last week.
Lawyers acting for abuse victims claim it was designed to prevent the allegations from becoming public knowledge or being investigated by the police. They accuse Ratzinger of committing a 'clear obstruction of justice'.
The letter states that the church's jurisdiction 'begins to run from the day when the minor has completed the 18th year of age' and lasts for 10 years
'Cases of this kind are subject to the pontifical secret,'
Ratzinger's letter concludes. Breaching the pontifical secret at any time while the 10-year jurisdiction order is operating carries penalties, including the threat of excommunication. observer.guardian.co.uk..." target="_blank" class="postlink" rel="nofollow"> Link