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40 Year-Old Document Suggests Vatican Conspiracy To Keep Sexual Abuse Allegations Secret

Aired August 7, 2003 - 19:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: But first, a major controversy still developing right now, over a Vatican document some 40 years old. Is it proof that every Catholic diocese in the world was under direct orders from Rome to keep sexual abuse within the clergy a secret, or is it an obscure church document being taken out of context. Jason Carroll has the details that are starting to unravel.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The document was sent out in 1962. Bishops were told to keep it in their secret archives. It comes from the highest levels within the Catholic church and it was the Vatican's instructions on how diocese all over the world should handle allegations of sexual abuse of priests.

CARMEN DURSO, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: These were the marching orders to each and everyone of these priests and supervisors. Saying to them, when you get information about this kind of activity you keep it a secret.

CARROLL: The 39 page document primarily refers to cases involving the confession. It says, if a priest tries to solicit sex from someone who is trying to give their confession, the allegation against the priest should be pursued in a most secretive way under the penalty of excommunication. That threat applied to all parties involved. And the document goes on to include allegations of abuse outside confession.

MSGR. FRANCIS MANISCALCO, U.S. CONF. CATHOLIC BISHOPS: That document was very much in the background and did not have -- was not really an effective force in most of these cases in the last 20 years.

CARROLL: Church leaders say the document was so secret that few bishops knew about it. Still, there's a debate over its influence, did it merely contribute to a culture of secrecy, or something more serious.

DURSO: It's a blue print for obstruction of justice.

JOHN ALLEN, NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER: It is not a smoking gun that provides evidence of a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice because the document had nothing to do with the church's cooperation with criminal or civil investigations.

CARROLL: No where does the '62 document say whether clergy should report allegations of abuse to law enforcement. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: And experts say the Vatican has had no church law on reporting allegations of sexual abuse to authorities until last year. Now, Anderson, that's when the U.S. Conference of Bishops adopted a national policy to lift, what one bishop called, the veil of secrecy, and report all credible allegations of abuse to authorities -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right Jason Carroll, thanks very much for that report from New York. As we said, this is still a developing story. We're going to go in depth on topic in about 20 minutes. I'll be talking with a former U.S. envoy to the Vatican, ex Boston Mayor, Ray Flynn and Phil Salviano, who claims he was sexually abused by a priest. We'll get both of their reactions.

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