US & Canada

Vatican official thanks media for exposing sex scandal

Father Robert Oliver
Image caption Father Oliver said that many within the Church had initially been incredulous about the abuse

The Vatican official charged with prosecuting sexual crimes has acknowledged that the US media helped the Church confront the abuse scandal.

Father Robert Oliver, a lawyer from Boston, was speaking after being named as the Vatican's "Promoter of Justice".

Officials said about 600 cases of abuse - most of which took place from 1965 to 1985 - are being reported each year.

In the past, Vatican officials have accused the media of irresponsible reporting on the story.

The scandals were uncovered by American media in Boston in 2002.

They began reporting that instances of abuse were being systematically covered up and accused priests were being transferred between parishes, instead of facing criminal charges.

"I think that certainly those who continued to put before us that we need to confront this problem did a service," Father Oliver said, speaking in Rome.

"They [the media] helped to keep the energy, if you will, to keep the movement going so that we would, honestly and with transparency, and with our strength, confront what is true," he added.

Father Oliver said the peak of reported cases was in 2004, with 800 denunciations.

He acknowledged that, initially, Church leaders had been incredulous about the claims.

"In the beginning our reaction was: 'No, this is not possible, people don't do this to children'," he said.

Appointed to his role as the Vatican's chief prosecutor on clerical child abuse last week, he pledged zero tolerance against priests and Church officials who were discovered to be abusers.

The Vatican has set up new guidelines to prevent future abuse, stressing that it will help victims, forewarn minors, train future clergy, rehabilitate abusers and work alongside civil authorities.

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