Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said later that the letter underscored the correctness of a 2001 decision to consolidate responsibility for handling cases of sexual abuse of minors by clergy under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, AFP reports.
In the letter, recently reproduced on the website of French magazine Golias, a top Vatican prelate wrote to a French bishop praising him for not turning in a pedophile priest.
Bayeux-Lisieux Bishop Pierre Pican was jailed for three months for not informing on Abbot Bissey, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2000 for pedophilia. The abbot raped a minor and molested three others.
"I congratulate you on not having spoken out to civil authorities against a priest," wrote Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, then prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy.
"You have done well and I am delighted to have an associate in the episcopate who... preferred prison to speaking out against a son-priest."
Hoyos added that he would send a copy of the letter to all the bishops' conferences in the world "to encourage the brothers in the episcopate in this very delicate area".
"This document is another confirmation of how timely was the unification of the treatment of cases of sexual abuse of minors on the part of members of the clergy under the competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith," said the statement released by the Vatican press office.
The Vatican statement said that move assured "a rigorous and coherent management [of the cases], as in fact happened with the documents approved by the pope [John Paul II] in 2001."
The Vatican statement suggests that Castrillón Hoyos's attitude was part of the reason that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, pressed for a more aggressive policy on the removal of predator priests, NCR's John L. Allen notes.
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