May 19, 2007 / 5:09 PM / 13 years ago

Catholics say blog spreads BBC "slander" to Italy

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s leading Roman Catholic newspaper lashed out at bloggers on Saturday for spreading “slander” by posting a BBC documentary that alleged a Church cover-up of child sexual abuse.

Employees walks past the BBC's main offices, in west London, December 7, 2004. Italy's leading Roman Catholic newspaper lashed out at bloggers on Saturday for spreading "slander" by posting a BBC documentary that alleged a Church cover-up of child sexual abuse. REUTERS/Toby Melville

The documentary aired on the BBC in October, but never in Italy. The bloggers translated it and it now ranks as Google Video Italia’s (www.video.google.it) most popular item.

“We did the patient work of translating and subtitling it to fill this shameful gap,” they wrote at www.bispensiero.it.

Newspaper Avvenire, which is owned by the Italian Conference of Roman Catholic bishops, slammed the web version in a front-page editorial headlined “Infamous Slander Via Internet”.

The BBC documentary examined what it described as a secret document written in 1962 that set out a procedure for dealing with child sexual abuse within the Church.

It imposed an oath of secrecy on the child victim, the priest and any witness, a policy the BBC documentary said was meant to protect the priest’s reputation during the investigation but “can offer a blueprint for cover-up”.

Avvenire called the documentary “a pot-pourri of affirmations and pseudo-testimony that were at the time publicly repudiated” for being false and misleading.

The Roman Catholic Church has been hit in several countries, including the United States and Ireland, by lawsuits and allegations of sex abuse by priests.

British bishops last year criticized the BBC, saying it should be “ashamed of the standard of the journalism used to create this unwarranted attack on Pope Benedict”.

Before being elected Pope in 2005, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican department that enforces doctrine.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, writing on behalf of the British bishops, has said the original document in question was concerned not directly with child abuse but with the abuse of the confessional by a priest to silence his victim.

The document was revised in 2001 to deal more specifically with sex abuse cases but still remained secret, Nichols said. He added Pope Benedict had worked to punish offenders.

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