Andrew Brown worries about the ways in which abuse cases were silenced and covered up at low levels of the church - especially between 1970 and 1985.

There was no Vatican cover-up. Instead of one centrally ordered cover-up, there were hundreds of little local ones. They didn't require special regulations. They grew quite naturally out of the clerical culture. They worked by silence and omission rather than anything more obviously sinister. The scandal is going to be much worse as a result...

But the crucial line in Vatican investigator Mgr Charles Scicluna's evidence comes much earlier. He says that between 1975 and 1983, there was not a single case referred to his office from anywhere in the world. This is astonishing.

I'm sure he's telling the truth. But this should be scaring him out of his wits ...

because the period when nothing at all was reported to Rome was also when the abuse was most frequent and widespread and from which the worst stories have since emerged. Look at the graph [above], which admittedly only covers America. There were never fewer than 350 priests reported in any of the years between 1975 and 1983. None of those cases reached Rome for judgement. All of them were covered up spontaneously, almost unconsciously, by the local bishops.

What this means, of course, is that in every country where there was abuse there were also cover-ups, and these will come to light all round the world.

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