• Pope appoints new prosecutor of sex crimes
     | December 23,2012

    ROME — Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday appointed a priest who handled sexual abuse cases under the disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston as the Vatican’s new sex crimes prosecutor.

    The pope also pardoned his former butler, who was serving a prison term after leaking confidential documents in the Vatican’s most embarrassing security breach in decades.

    The Vatican said that the Rev. Robert W. Oliver, a canon law specialist at the Archdiocese of Boston, would be the “promoter of justice” at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal office that reviews all abuse cases.

    Oliver was among the canon lawyers who advised Law on sexual abuse cases in Boston, the center of the church’s child abuse crisis in the United States. He continued advising the Archdiocese of Boston after the cardinal was forced to resign in 2002 amid an uproar over revelations that the cardinal had kept abusive priests working in parishes.

    David Clohessy, who helps lead the victims advocacy group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that appointment of “anyone with ties to Law” was problematic.

    ‘’It just rubs salt into the wounds of hundreds and hundreds of Boston victims when anyone associated with Law is given any kind of responsibility or power or prestige,” he said. “On the other hand, we’d rather someone hold that position who has had a lot of experience, even if their track record is less than stellar.”

    Oliver currently serves as a canon lawyer in the Archdiocese of Boston and as a visiting professor of canon law at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. In a statement released by the Boston archdiocese, Oliver said, “It is with deep humility and gratitude that I received the news that the Holy Father is entrusting me with this service to the Church.”

    Oliver succeeds Msgr. Charles Scicluna, 53, who was promoted to auxiliary bishop in his native Malta. A canon lawyer, Scicluna found himself in the eye of the storm after being named promoter of justice in 2002.

    The same year, Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a decree that all abuse cases should be sent directly to the doctrinal office. But bishops later said that the decree was not explained clearly and confusion lingered over how dioceses should handle abuse cases.

    After his resignation in Boston, Law was transferred to Rome and named archpriest of the prestigious Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and remained a member of the Vatican’s powerful Congregation for Bishops, responsible for naming bishops, until he retired last year.

    When the scandal erupted anew in Europe in 2010, with cases emerging in Ireland and the pope’s native Germany — including some that called into question how Benedict handled an abuse case when he was archbishop of Munich in 1980 — the Vatican issued new guidelines, essentially telling bishops to report abuse cases to the police.

    Victims groups called the Vatican’s actions too little, too late.

    The Vatican also said Saturday that Benedict had pardoned his former butler, Paolo Gabriele, 46, who had been sentenced to prison after admitting to leaking confidential documents that formed the basis of a tell-all book on alleged misdeeds, financial mismanagement, back-stabbing and infighting within the Vatican.

    On Saturday morning, Benedict met for 15 minutes with Gabriele in the Vatican police barracks where he had been serving an 18-month sentence for aggravated theft and set him free, said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

    Gabriele was arrested in May after Vatican authorities found what they called an “enormous” quantity of confidential documents in his Vatican apartment. Gabriele said he leaked the documents because he believed that exposing the “evil and corruption” within the Vatican would help put the Catholic Church back on track.

    Lombardi said that Gabriele would not have his former job back, but that the Vatican would help find him a new job and apartment.

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