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Vatican Sex Crimes Prosecutor to Bishops: Punish Pedophiles or Face Sanctions

"be aware of this scourge and to eliminate it from the priesthood.”

ROME (The Blaze/AP) -- The Vatican's sex crimes prosecutor has warned bishops that they must follow the church's laws and standards on dealing with priests who sexually abuse children or face possible church sanctions for negligence.

Monsignor Charles Scicluna spoke Wednesday on the sidelines of a Vatican-backed symposium on clerical sex abuse that is designed to help bishops craft guidelines to protect children and keep pedophiles out of the priesthood.

The Washington Post has more about the event:

The conference, which began on Monday and runs for four days, drew about 200 delegates, more than half of them bishops but also victims, rectors of Catholic universities and religious superiors. Cardinal William J. Levada, who heads the Vatican office that deals with allegations of clerical abuse, said Monday in his keynote speech that over 4,000 cases of sexual abuse of minors had been reported to his office in the past decade as the church toughened its responses. “We are still learning,” he said. “We need to help each other find the best ways to help victims, protect children,” and to educate priests “to be aware of this scourge and to eliminate it from the priesthood.”

The conference opened with some intriguing words on Monday, as the church sought to also defend Pope Benedict XVI's handing of the ongoing scandal. CNN reports:

On Monday, a top Roman Catholic official opened the conference by defending Pope Benedict XVI, arguing that he deserved thanks for his efforts.

Cardinal William Levada said Benedict, before becoming pope, enacted many of the reforms that followed the eruption of the church's sex-abuse scandal a decade ago.

"But the pope has had to suffer attacks by the media over these past years in various parts of the world, when he should receive the gratitude of us all, in the church and outside it," Levada said in his opening address to the conference.

At the conference, psychologists have encouraged clergy to trust victims over the perpetrators. Those who rape and molest children lie when confronted with an accusation but victims usually tell the truth, experts told Catholic bishops at a symposium Tuesday.

Abuse victims have long denounced the lack of accountability of bishops who routinely moved abusive priests from parish to parish rather than report them to police or punish them internally. In addition to discussing the psychology behind the victim and perpetrator dynamic, leaders were told that not taking action would have consequences.

Scicluna said doing so was "unacceptable" and that church law provides for sanctioning bishops who are negligent or malicious in doing their job.

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