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April-17-02

Vatican Focuses on US Pedophile Priests Despite Worldwide Abuses

The Vatican has called a summit of U.S. cardinals to discuss child sex abuse by members of the clergy. The meeting will focus solely on the pedophilia scandal in the U.S., and media speculate that the Vatican will attempt to create a U.S. national policy for addressing charges of sex abuse. The problem of pedophilia, however, is of greater proportions. Cases of child sex abuse by priests and other clergy members have surfaced in England, Canada, Austria, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Australia, and most recently in Mexico. That the reports of pedophilia are concentrated mostly in western countries, however, should not suggest that pedophilia does not exist in other parts of the world.

In Mexico, for example, a country with the second largest Catholic population, the Church has enormous power to keep pedophilia covered up. In 1997, an independent television station in Mexico began exposing pedophile priests, but immediately after the first report, Catholic businesses began pulling their funding, almost sending the station into bankruptcy and ending the reporting on child sex abuse. This pattern continues among certain Mexican Catholics. Mexican bishop Sergio Obeso commented only days ago that “Dirty laundry is best washed at home.” The Church’s power coupled with the unwillingness of Mexicans to report abuse may hinder efforts to expose pedophilia in that country and perhaps in many others.

According to R. Scott Appleby, Director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at Notre Dame, the pedophilia scandal is “not just a crisis that affects a minority of priests accused of sexual abuse, but which affects the very credibility of the hierarchy.” It remains to be seen, however, if the Vatican will treat pedophilia merely as a problem within the U.S. or as a global one.

Media Resources: Washington Post, 4/17/02; Associated Press, 4/17/02 & 4/16/02; New York Times, 4/16/02

   

     

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