A senior official has called for transparency in how the Catholic Church handles sexual abuse cases after revealing that evidence had in some cases been destroyed.
German Cardinal Reinhard Marx made the shocking admission while addressing a major summit being held by the Vatican on the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Church.
Cardinal Marx, who is the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, said that the sexual abuse of children and youths in the Church had been made possible 'in no small measure' by the 'abuse of power in the area of administration'.
He said Church officials, instead of helping to shine a light on abuse, had 'obscured, discredited and made it impossible'.
In some places, files that could have helped ensure predatory priests were brought to justice were destroyed, he alleged.
Instead of pursuing the perpetrators of the abuse, he said that the Church often went after the victims to keep them from speaking.
'Files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed, or not even created,' he said.
'Instead of the perpetrators, the victims were regulated and silence imposed on them.'
Where there were procedures and processes in place to advance prosecution against abusive clergy, these were 'deliberately not complied with, but instead cancelled or overridden'.
'The rights of victims were effectively trampled underfoot, and left to the whims of individuals,' he said.
He went on to warn that the consequence of obstructing justice had been to damage the credibility of the Church in sharing the Gospel with the world.
'These are all events that sharply contradict what the Church should stand for,' he said.
'The way in which Church administration was structured and carried out, did not contribute to unifying the whole human race, and bringing mankind closer to God, but on the contrary, violated these aims.'
He added that many abuse victims and onlookers would question why they should believe in Jesus.
'If the Church claims to act in the name of Jesus, yet I am treated so badly by the Church or its administration, then I would also like to have nothing to do with this Jesus,' he said.