Minn. attorney stands by abuse case amid church's denial

Vatican on Holy Thursday
Priests follow a Chrism Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI, inside St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Thursday, April 1, 2010. Benedict XVI led a ceremony dedicated to the priesthood Thursday, marking a Holy Week with his church buffeted by clergy sex abuse scandals.
AP photo

During ceremonies marking Holy Thursday, some church officials today denied covering up abuse allegations that have reached Pope Benedict XVI himself.

Documents that surfaced as part of a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee showed that Vatican officials, including the future pontiff, did not remove a priest accused of molesting up to 200 deaf boys, according to a story published last week in the New York Times.

On Thursday, cardinals attacked the U.S. media for its coverage. One said in his Holy Thursday homily that Pope Benedict was the victim of "deceitful accusations."

In Minnesota on Thursday, the attorney who provided the documents that led to the New York Times story, again stood by the accusations, saying he has no doubt that top church officials have tried to keep allegations of sexual abuse a secret.

"It comes from the top," attorney Jeff Anderson told MPR's Midmorning, adding that laws within the church call on leaders to protect their own.

"(The protocols) require the avoidance of scandal to protect the reputation of the church," he said.

Allegations of abuse and lawsuits filed by victims have tainted the Roman Catholic Church's image since the 1980s. The most recent accusation pointing to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict XVI has hit many of the church's more than 1 billion members worldwide.

Several of the Catholics who called into MPR's Midmorning program questioned whether the media has focused too heavily on the church, pointing out there are plenty of other examples of sexual abuse and pedophilia in society.

But Anderson argued that cases outside of the church are more aggressively prosecuted. In the church, leaders have tried to protect priests accused of abuse, which has led to more children being abused, he said.

"We have to hold them accountable," Anderson said.

Cardinals in recent days have also pointed to actions Pope Benedict XVI has taken to investigate allegations of abuse within the church and bring justice to victims.

While Anderson acknowledged the new policies, he questioned whether they are being enforced.

"They've just resisted a fundamental change, and that is opening themselves up," he said. "They really haven't spoken the truth about what they know."

A representative from the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis will be the featured guest on Monday's Midmorning program.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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