Pope's chief investigator 'failed to act' on allegation
THE Pope's replacement to investigate sex abuse cases in the Catholic Church has been accused of failing to act against a Californian priest after learning he had allegedly molested an altar boy 11 years earlier.
Cardinal William Levada, who at the time the alleged offence came to light in 1995 was Archbishop of San Francisco, said five years ago he did not contact police about Father Milton Walsh because he believed his predecessor had dealt with the case adequately. He also said he trusted that Father Walsh would not reoffend.
Jeffrey Lena, the lawyer acting for the Vatican in US abuse cases, said that Cardinal Levada acted appropriately according to the standards of the time. There was no evidence that Father Walsh had gone on to commit any further sexual offences.
Father Walsh was removed from active ministry in 2002 when police opened an investigation into his behaviour. The same year the US Bishops' Conference issued a "zero tolerance" policy on clerical sex abuse.
Cardinal Levada, the highest-ranking American in the Vatican Curia, was selected by the Pope to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the body which Benedict headed until he became Pope in 2005. Its functions include investigating and defrocking paedophile priests.
This month the Vatican posted guidelines on its website making clear for the first time that bishops are required to report suspected sex abuse cases to police rather than confining them to internal tribunals. (© The Times, London)