Church not helping Peru on pedophilia inquiry into bishop: prosecutor


By Mitra Taj

LIMA (Reuters) - The Catholic Church has yet to help authorities in Peru who are investigating whether a defrocked bishop sexually abused children before Pope Francis forced him from his post in a poor Andean region, a prosecutor said on Thursday.

On September 20, the attorney general's office opened an investigation into Gabino Miranda, until recently the auxiliary bishop of Ayacucho in southern Peru, after a prominent bishop said the Church had kicked Miranda out of the clergy because of suspected pedophilia.

No one has filed any formal complaints against Miranda, who has denied wrongdoing with minors through intermediaries, and it is unclear where he is now.

Garry Chavez, the prosecutor leading the investigation, said church officials based in Peru and in Vatican City have yet to respond to several requests for details about the case.

"The fact is they have not given us any information so far, despite our summons," Chavez told Reuters. "What we are going to do now is reiterate to them that the law requires their cooperation."

The president of Peru's bishop conference, Salvador Pineiro, said in a statement on Thursday that he supports the investigation and hopes it will reveal the truth soon.

Pineiro, who is also Archbishop of Ayacucho and oversaw Miranda for two years, said all he knows about the case is that on July 5 he was notified Pope Francis was discharging Miranda because of "sins against the sixth commandment, in a process subject to pontifical secrecy."

The Bible's sixth commandment - "thou shalt not commit adultery" - is interpreted by Catholics as encompassing a variety of other sexual offenses, from pornography and gay sex to child molestation.

Shortly after becoming pope in March, Francis directed the Vatican to act quickly when clergymen are suspected of sexually abusing children, and vowed to punish pedophiles in the Church.

In a letter to the Vatican dated July 1 - made public by Peruvian TV program Panorama - Miranda admitted to having been "imprudent" but said he did not defy the sixth commandment.

"I do not know the crimes I am accused of," Miranda wrote. "I do not where those who accuse me come from, the jurisdiction and when the crimes were supposedly committed."

Miranda headed a national youth group for the Church, and was known for performing Mass in the indigenous Quechua language.

Lima's outspoken Archbishop Luis Cipriani, a member of the same conservative Catholic group Miranda is linked to - Opus Dei - said it was in poor taste for the former president of Peru's bishop conference, Bishop Emeritus Luis Bambaren, to condemn Miranda and tell reporters he was removed as part of the pope's tougher stance on pedophile priests.
Cipriani emphasized mercy.

"Let's not make firewood out of a fallen tree," Cipriani said in a weekly radio address on Saturday.

Cipriani met with Francis in Rome on Monday.

(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)