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Vatican sex crimes prosecutor warns bishops
Vatican sex crimes prosecutor to bishops: Punish pedophiles or face negligence sanctions
By The Associated Press

ROME (AP) ' The Vatican's sex crimes prosecutor warned bishops Wednesday that they must follow the church's laws and standards on dealing with priests who sexually abuse children or face possible church sanctions for negligence.

Monsignor Charles Scicluna spoke to reporters on the sidelines of a Vatican-backed symposium on clerical sex abuse that is designed to help bishops around the world craft guidelines to protect children and keep pedophiles out of the priesthood. Priests and bishops from 110 dioceses and 30 religious orders are attending the four-day workshop ahead of a May deadline to submit their guidelines for review by the Holy See.

Survivors of clerical abuse, government investigations and even some clerics have long blamed bishops for failing to report abusive priests to police and failing to apply church law to sanction them internally. Victims' groups have denounced the lack of accountability of bishops, who were never punished for having routinely moved priests from parish to parish where they could abuse again.

Scicluna, the promoter of justice in the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said it was "unacceptable" for bishops to ignore church law and standards to deal with abusers and said church law provides for sanctioning bishops who are negligent in doing their job ' including being removed as bishop.

"It is a crime in canon law to show malicious or fraudulent negligence in the exercise of one's duty," Scicluna said. "I'm not saying that we should start punishing everybody for any negligence in his duties. But what I want to say is that this is not acceptable. It is not acceptable that when there are set standards, people do not follow the set standards."

He allowed, however, that only the pope can sanction a bishop and that it's not something that happens every day. In fact, there is no known, recent case in which a bishop has been removed for having mishandled cases of abusive priests.

In the United States, however, a church official is currently on trial in Philadelphia on alleged child endangerment charges ' the first time a high-ranking church official has been indicted not for abuse itself but for allegedly failing to protect children from pedophile priests in the diocese.

Scicluna addressed the symposium Wednesday morning, denouncing the "deadly culture of silence or 'omerta'" that still surrounds clerical abuse in much of the world.

"No strategy for the prevention of child abuse will ever work without commitment and accountability," he said.

Advocates for victims have dismissed the symposium as a farce, saying the only way children will be safe is if the Vatican releases the names and files of known molesters.

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