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Vatican Toughens Rules on Dealing with Priests Who Have Abused Minors

Aired July 15, 2010 - 16:00:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: The Vatican toughens its rules on dealing with priests who have sexually abused minors. It's a story that resonates for believers around the world, from Lagos to Montevideo. Tonight, the one opinion that matters -- a victim's response to the promises made by the Catholic Church.

On CNN, this is the hour we connect the world.

The long awaited new rules on sex abuse were issued by the Vatican today.

But is the Catholic Church doing enough?

The United Nations says that kids affected still need to see justice done.

With today's top story and its connections to you, I'm Becky Anderson in London.

Also tonight, a CNN investigation finds only 2 percent of the rebuilding aid promised to Haiti has actually been delivered. We're going to name the countries that haven't kept their word so far.


ANDERSON: And you've got to recognize the song "I Try." Macy Gray won many awards for it, and tonight, she is answering your questions.

And you can connect with the program online via Twitter. My personal address, as always, is atbeckycnn.

Well, first up tonight, damage control at the Vatican. The Roman Catholic Church is trying to stop sexual abuse of children by its own clergy by putting new anti-predator rules in place.

But one critic says it's like bringing a child's sand shovels to an avalanche.

Let's kick off this part of the show with Atika Shubert in Rome.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, these are the new revisions to church law. And, really, there's nothing new in here. It really just puts into law -- Catholic Church law, of course -- what has already been established as a Vatican norm on fighting abuse.

Here are some of the main points. The pope now has the authority to defrock a priest without a formal Vatican trial. Also, the statute of limitations on abuse cases is extended from 10 to 20 years.

Now, it also explicitly makes the possession of child pornography a grave offense and it makes it clear that the abuse of a mentally disabled adult is as serious an offense as the abuse of a minor.

Now, for many people, those last two points really go without saying, but this is the first time it's actually been codified and put into law. So this is really about clearing away that Vatican bureaucracy, making sure that bishops around the world know that this is binding law and that those who break the law can and should be punished.

Here's what the Vatican's chief prosecutor, Monsignor Charles Scicluna, had to say about it.


MONSIGNOR CHARLES SCICLUNA, VATICAN PROMOTER OF JUSTICE: It is very important to have a clear norm, especially if it's talking about crime. Every person has the right to know what the law says. And this is a very important point here, to make it clear to everybody.


SHUBERT: Now, the very fact that Scicluna personally released this document and took the extra time to talk to the press, that's a very rare event and really underscores that the Vatican is trying to show, quote, "its rigor and transparency" in this.

But even Scicluna admits this document right here is very far from being perfect.


SCICLUNA: But a document is always a document. It does not solve all the problems. It is a very important instrument, but then it is the way you use the instruments that is going to have, you know, have the real effect on the life of the church.


ANDERSON: Now, the Vatican may think this is a big step. But victims of church abuse are not happy. In fact, the support network for those abused by priests have already released a statement. Here's what they said: "History has shown that church abuse policies are rarely followed. But even if these new guidelines are obeyed, their impact on the ongoing crisis is likely to be insignificant. Defrocking a predator, by definition, is too late."

Now, what they want is a complete overhaul and reform. But, frankly, the Vatican is a massive, often secretive bureaucracy that's been operating the same way for hundreds of years. So reform and change is a slow process.

Atika Shubert, CNN, Rome.


ANDERSON: All right. Well, a short time ago, I spoke with the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay.

And I asked her whether she is happy with how the church has been dealing with the child abuse scandal.


NAVI PILLAY, U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: Not at all. As high commissioner for human rights, we always call for a proper, independent investigation. And this is what I call in the specter of that matter. It cannot be swept under the carpet. It can never be -- there -- there are children who are now elderly who are coming forward on this issue because they're still hurting and they -- we need to see justice being done. It has to be seriously addressed.

I did go to Rome at the invitation of the pope's representative in Geneva. And I addressed the university -- the pope's university there, not on this issue, but very -- other issues. So I would call for an investigation and a revamping of the rules and not to ignore the fact that this is taking place on a large scale.


ANDERSON: Navi Pillay speaking to me earlier, the U.N. high commissioner of human rights.

Well, we also have reached out to the Vatican for a response on the scandal. The Vatican said it has no comment.

Well, according to them, there are 1.1 billion Catholics worldwide. The majority of them live in Europe and in Central and South America. You can see right here on the map, which highlights countries with a Catholic population of 50 percent or more. Mexico also ranking highly, as do several nations in Africa, while East Timor and the Philippines are the most Catholic areas in Asia.

Well, the Vatican is also making it one of the gravest crimes in the church to try to ordain women as priests, alongside heresy and pedophilia. There's been an intense reaction around the globe today to the new abuse rules.

Michael Holmes kicking off for us in the United States.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Michael Holmes in the United States, where the global church abuse crisis first burst out into the open. American Catholics and the mainstream media have been very critical of the Vatican and Pope Benedict in particular. Initial reaction to the guidelines was critical again. Victims' activists say that the new rules barely affect the way that the church is already handling the problem and people are raising eyebrows about the decision to treat the ordination of women as a grave crime, in the same category as sex abuse, wondering if choosing a woman to serve as a priest is really comparable to raping a child.

CHRISTIAN PUREFOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi. I'm Christian Purefoy in Nigeria, home to an estimated 20 million Catholics. And with churches popping up across the continent, Africa has one of the fastest growing congregations of Catholics anywhere in the world. Nigeria has already seen the resignation of one archbishop because of allegations of a sex scandal. The archbishop does deny it was with a minor. But discussions in churches here has been rather muted. And that's because many people here see the crisis in the Catholic Church as a Western problem, not a Nigerian one.


ANDERSON: All right.

Well, some reaction then globally.

I want to get more perspective on this.

Patrick Walsh joins me here in the studio.

He survived years of abuse at the hands of men who were supposed to be devout Christian brothers of the church.

And we do thank you for joining us.

Are today's promises from the Vatican, as far as you're concerned, enough?

PATRICK WALSH, ABUSE SURVIVOR: No. But they are an important start in the process that was promised back in March, when the pope issued his pastoral letter to the people of Ireland following the revelations in the Ryan and Murphy reports and such like.

I -- I mean I read today's bulletin from Rome with some sink -- a sinking heart because it read more like a bulletin from the lord chancellor's office on the change of rules and procedure in the supreme court. And there were things in the bulletin that shouldn't have been there, such as all that talk about the ordination of women. That really shouldn't have been there. But it -- it's there.

As I say, it was more like, as I say, a memorandum on rules of procedure.

ANDERSON: I've got a couple of responses to the blog that we've been running here at CNN today.

Let me read you a couple of these and get your reaction.

Rostinol (ph) writes: "The one recommendation missing is a church directive to turn child molesting priests over to civil authorities for criminal prosecution."

Hold that thought.

W. agrees, saying: "I respect the pope. He's acting as the spiritual leader. But it just seems like a criminal is getting the chance to make the rules."

Two slightly different points. They were very different points.

But your reaction?

WALSH: Well, to the last point, I think referring to the pope as a criminal in that blog is probably just pushing it a bit far. I -- I know that the -- a lot of people have been doing that in the last couple of years, since he was Cardinal Ratzinger.

Today's change to the rules of procedure to defrock an errant priest summarily is very, very significant and clearly has been introduced following the very severe criticism just three months ago of the pope following revelations in America about his failure -- or apparent failure - - to take action against a priest who was referred to the doctrine of the faith (ph) by his local archbishop. But we all know that particular case.

The fact -- the fact is, from now on, a procedure will be in place to summarily dismiss a priest who's been found to have abused young people.

ANDERSON: Are you that confident, Patrick, or any more confident today that -- that kids across the world are safe?

WALSH: Well, I mean I -- I'm not a world policeman, but clearly, the Catholic Church has been very, very stung by the revelations of the past 10 years. Clearly, they have been se -- they've been very humiliated and obviously they want to bring about change.

We're involved in an -- in the process of dialogue with very senior people in the Catholic Church. It's clear to us that they want to bring about meaningful change that will be recognized as change for the -- for the better.

This -- I don't believe that this is some sort of cosmetic exercise and, as I say, I've got faith that this particular pope will see it through, difficult as it is for him. He will see it through.

ANDERSON: Not all viewers will have heard from you before. And I wonder if you can just very briefly describe what happened with you and the legacy that it leaves for you as a man now.

WALSH: Well, you have to remember what happened to me and to tens of thousands of others just like me happened within the context of a country that had sold itself out to the Catholic Church -- I'm talking about Ireland, of course -- from the moment the British left in 1922 until fairly recently, where children were locked up for no good reason, for many, many years.

Now, it's now been recognized and accepted by the government and the church that very serious harm was done to tens of thousands of people by those who were supposed to be servants of the church.

The church now recognizes that and is currently involved in the process of understanding -- or should I say, to get to understand how the forces of evil -- I call them the forces of evil -- managed to inveigle their way into the Catholic Church and run amok and create havoc, destroy human lives.

But that process of investigation is underway. The church is determined to understand what happened to its institutions and that's got to be a good thing.

ANDERSON: Patrick, with that, we're going to leave it there.

WALSH: Thank you.

ANDERSON: We thank you very much, indeed, for joining us...

WALSH: Thank you.

ANDERSON: -- in what is an -- an important day.

Patrick Walsh for you.

WALSH: Thank you.

ANDERSON: Connecting the dots for you on the story tonight, I'm Becky Anderson in London.

And we'll be back in 60 seconds.

A key development on BP's effort to cap the oil leak. That is up next.


ANDERSON: Well, we are going to bring you some pictures of the ruptured underwater well in the Gulf of Mexico imminently. And 86 days into the spill, BP says oil has stopped flowing. Well, the news comes as BP continues a critical test of a containment cap meant to stop the leak. It isn't clear when or if the leak will review (ph). Since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in April, the U.S. government and more than 4.2 million barrels -- say that more than 2 point -- 4.2 million barrels have spilled into the Gulf, with between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels leaking every day.

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