Sunday, May 27, 2007

Can’t Blame Church, Italian Bishops Say

The Roman Catholic Church cannot be considered guilty if individual priests commit sexual abuse, a senior official of the influential Italian bishops conference said.

In sharp contrast to the Catholic Church in the United States, the Italian Church has been largely unscathed by sex abuse scandals, although there have been some isolated allegations.

"The Church cannot be guilty of a crime committed by an individual," Msgr. Giuseppe Betori, secretary general of the Italian bishops conference, told reporters during a meeting of the country’s bishops in Rome.

"It’s not the diocese who reimburses the victim, it is the priest who pays damages for an act," the bishops conference news agency SIR quoted Betori as saying.

A priest in Sicily was recently sentenced in a plea bargain to 2 1/2 years in prison for sexual abuse of a young former seminarian, according to Italian media.

The local diocese paid damages to the young man, but terms of the settlement were kept secret as part of an agreement between both sides, the Italian media said.

Originally, the diocese in Sicily had sought damages from the victim for allegedly damaging the local church’s image and prestige, the Italian news agency AGI reported.

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