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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Vatican held to account at UN over child abuse

The Vatican has been accused of evading its responsibilities over child abuse and trying to distract attention from its crimes by accusing other faiths of having even worse records.

In a rebuttal to accusations levelled at it at the United Nations Human Rights Council, (UNHRC) the Vatican says that protestant churches and even Jewish synagogues have even worse records of child abuse than the Catholic Church.

The original accusations were made by Keith Porteous Wood, speaking on behalf of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). He had alleged at a meeting of the Human Rights Council that the Vatican had failed to provide the mandatory reports to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. Its reports were now fifteen years overdue. It has now grudgingly offered to provide just one paragraph on abuse by priests which has led to compensation being paid all over the world running to billions of dollars.

Mr Porteous Wood had also said that the Catholic Church had an appalling record of cover-ups, evasions, moving around of offending priests and making counter accusations of lying against victims who spoke up.

Keith Porteous Wood said: “The Vatican’s record on this is truly shocking. It has shown little remorse for the suffering inflicted on tens of thousands of innocent children over the years. In fact, it has tried very hard to cover up and evade responsibility. We have called on the international community to stop pussy-footing around the Vatican and to hold it to account for the misery it has inflicted on countless people. We want the Vatican to be made to face up to its responsibility and accept its culpability.”

Mr Wood said that the Vatican compounded the distress of victims by constantly trying to belittle their suffering or to evade responsibility for it altogether.

“Victim groups around the world will tell you that closure is just about impossible when the abusers are protected by the church and the victims are made to feel that they are, in some way, responsible for their exploitation. The Vatican really must be challenged to change its ways and to show some repentance not only for the deeds of its priests but for its own conspiracy to try to sweep the whole dreadful business under the carpet. The complacency exhibited by this supposed rebuttal shows that the problem goes to the most senior level in the Church.”

Read a full account of the confrontation at the UNHRC 

Read the full IHEU statement, as published by the UN 

Published Tue, 29 Sep 2009