Vatican official attacks 'omerta'
Hiding behind a culture of "omerta" -- the Italian word for the Mafia's code of silence -- would be deadly for the Catholic Church, the Vatican's top official for dealing with sexual abuse of minors by clergy said yesterday.
Monsignor Charles Scicluna made the unusually forthright comment in his speech to a landmark symposium in Rome on the sexual-abuse crisis that has rocked the church in the past decade.
"The teaching . . . that truth is at the basis of justice explains why a deadly culture of silence, or 'omerta,' is in itself wrong and unjust," Msgr Scicluna told the four-day symposium, which brings together 200 people including bishops, leaders of religious orders, victims of abuse and psychologists.
Rarely, if ever, has a Vatican official used the word "omerta" -- a serious accusation in Italian -- to compare the reluctance of some in the church to come clean on the abuse scandal with the Mafia's code of silence.
"Other enemies of the truth are the deliberate denial of known facts and the misplaced concern that the good name of the institution should somehow enjoy absolute priority to the detriment of disclosure," Msgr Scicluna added.
Victims' groups have for years accused some bishops in the church of preferring silence and cover-ups to coming clean on the scandal, which has sullied the image of the church around the world.
On Tuesday, an Irish victim of clerical abuse bluntly told the symposium that guidelines on how to root out paedophile priests and protect children needed to be backed up by penalties for bishops who failed to implement them.
Marie Collins said rules without sanctions were too easily ignored and cases were often swept under the carpet.