Friday, August 8, 2003 Posted: 9:33 AM EDT (1333 GMT)
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- A 1962 Vatican document -- kept in secret archives -- instructed dioceses all over the world to keep sexual misconduct in the church under wraps.
But the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said that using the document as a "smoking gun" to prove the existence of a "'ground plan' for 'covering up' the crime of sexual abuse of minors by clerics" is off-base. The church's guidance on the issue was revamped in 1983, the bishops said.
Issued on March 16, 1962, the document primarily refers to cases involving confession. It says, if a priest tries to solicit sex from someone who is trying to give their confession, then the allegation against the priest should be "pursued in a most secretive way ... under penalty of excommunication."