Refuting reports in the media that a letter from the Vatican suggests that priests accused of abusing children should be tried in private church courts, a spokesman for the Catholic Media Office issued the following statement yesterday: "There has been some misunderstanding concerning a Vatican clarification regarding Catholic clergy who have abused children. "This clarification in no way circumvents or replaces normal legal procedures. Child abuse is a crime. The Church's policies state that any allegations of abuse must be referred to the proper statutory authorities (police/social services). This was made clear in the independent Nolan report, approved by the Catholic bishops of England and Wales last year. "The new letter from the Vatican clarifies the 1983 Code of Canon Law and reinforces internal disciplinary procedures."