Saturday, April 17, 2010

FBI: No File on Vatican's
for Propagation of the Faith

The New York Times story yesterday about Pope Benedict's recent remarks about repentance in relation to the latest widespread sexual abuse scandals involving Catholic priests and children, reminded readers of his role heading up an influential branch of the Vatican hierarchy:

The Vatican confirmation [that a letter from a French bishop praising his defense of abusive priest] was unusual because it cast an important cardinal in a bad light. In doing so, the pope’s spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, also sought to bolster the argument that Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, worked actively to strengthen measures against pedophile priests. [...]

Even after issuing a letter to Irish Catholics on March 20 expressing shame for sex abuse in the Irish church, Benedict has been under pressure in recent weeks to address a controversy that has also raised questions about his own actions as archbishop in Munich in 1980 and as prefect for the Vatican department responsible for abuse cases. [...]

That department is the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, and a few weeks ago I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for any records from January 1980, one year before Ratzinger was appointed by Pope John Paul ll to lead that congregation, until April 2010. My FOIA asked the agency to search the archive using all known various names for this branch of the Vatican.

I was curious to learn if the FBI had had any reason over the past three decades to investigate the congregation, especially during Ratzinger's reign, and the FBI quickly replied, saying no files existed on this congregation:

"Based on the information you provided, we conducted a search of the indices to our Central Records System. We were unable to identify responsive main file records. If you have additional information pertaining to the subject and you believe it was of investigative interest to the Bureau, please provide us the details and we will conduct an additional search."

Was there reason over the past thirty years for the FBI to be looking at abusive priests accused of, and in some cases convicted of, violating criminal laws, and the role the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith played in shielding the priests? Should the feds have been investigating the priests and the congregation?

In my opinion, the answer is yes, but the lack of any FBI records about the abuse and the congregation protecting the priests reveals the agency had no reason to launch any investigation.

Here's a copy of the letter I received this week from the FBI. Click it to enlarge:

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