On the third day of an unprecedented Vatican summit on clerical sexual abuse, the head of the church in Germany, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, said there was clear evidence that files on abuse were manipulated or had been tampered with.

Marx said the church obscured sexual abuse cases and an African nun told the gathering of world bishops to acknowledge the hypocrisy and complacency that had brought it to this disgraceful and scandalous place.

Marx said there was clear evidence that files on abuse were manipulated or had been tampered with.

After bishops spent two days reflecting on the issues of responsibility and accountability, Cardinal Marx used his speech to call for more “traceability and transparency.” 

“Files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed, or not even created. Instead of the perpetrators, the victims were regulated and silence imposed on them,” he said. “The stipulated procedures and processes for the prosecution of offenses were deliberately not complied with, but instead canceled or overridden. The rights of victims were effectively trampled underfoot, and left to the whims of individuals.”

Marx added, “A full-functional church administration is an important building block in the fight against abuse and in dealing with abuse.”

He called for limiting pontifical secrecy in cases of abuse, releasing more statistics and publishing judicial procedures.

In an earlier speech to the assembled church leaders in the Vatican’s synod hall, a prominent Nigerian nun, Sister Veronica Openibo, said the church’s focus “must not be on fear or disgrace” but rather on its mission “to serve with integrity and justice.”

She said that at the present time the church is in “a state of crisis and shame.”

“We must acknowledge that our mediocrity, hypocrisy and complacency have brought us to this disgraceful and scandalous place we find ourselves as a church,” she said.

She spoke of all the atrocities that have been committed by members of the church and urged transparency saying that the church must no longer hide such events out of fear of making mistakes.

“Too often we want to keep silent until the storm has passed. This storm will not pass by. Our credibility as a church is at stake,” Openibo said.

Abuse survivors and demonstrators, meanwhile, held a demonstration in Rome calling for an end to the silence of the Vatican.

Pope Francis, who has come under intense pressure over the failure to deal with increasing cases of clerical sexual abuse, will close the summit on Sunday with a mass attended by all participants and a final speech.