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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Vatican to be attacked at UN over failure to tackle Child Abuse

The Pope's and the embattled Vatican's record on child abuse will be challenged at the UN on Monday (15 March 2010). Both will be criticised with unprecedented candour at the UN Human Rights Council by an international secular NGO, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).

Keith Porteous Wood, who is scheduled to make the intervention in Geneva representing IHEU, said: "Billions of dollars and euros have already been paid out in respect of thousands of victims in the USA and Ireland. News of further abuse has since appeared in Austria, the Netherlands and now Germany – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. How much more evidence of children's suffering is needed before the UN and the international community fulfil their responsibility to hold the Vatican to account?

"The Vatican is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), but has contravened several of its articles, and is over a decade behind in its reporting. It has compounded the abuse by facilitating multiple reoffending by shifting offenders around and shielding them from prosecuting authorities by imposing the "pontifical secret". Major investigations in the USA and Ireland have been massively obstructed – in Ireland by the Vatican's own representative, suggesting that this is under instruction from the highest level in the Church. All this has led to abusers being allowed to continue offending and escaping justice, while their victims despair - some even committing suicide.

"The Church's major concern over child abuse is not for the victims; but to protect its reputation and even more its assets. Over 90% of the compensation payments paid by cash-strapped Ireland came from the tax payers, including the abused themselves[1].

"When we raised this issue at the UN in September 2009, the Church blamed everyone else, but promised a paltry one paragraph on clerical abuse in its report to the UN[2]. That mandatory report, already 12 years overdue and promised last September, has still not been filed with the UN.

"All suspicions and accusations of child abuse, following an instruction from Cardinal Ratzinger when head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, were to be sent to the Vatican in secret[3]. Furthermore, when acceding to the Convention, the Vatican excluded the Vatican City from the jurisdiction of the Convention of the Rights of the Child[4].

"IHEU calls on the Holy See to:

1. remove its reservation to the CRC to bring the territory of Vatican City state, to which it has instructed all abuse accusations are to be sent, under the jurisdiction of the CRC,

2. open up its files and records to CRC and state investigators, and

3. instruct all its representatives to cooperate with legal investigating authorities worldwide, something that they have signally failed to do in Ireland." ENDS

See also: our detailed statement and intervention in September 2009 and the Vatican's disingenuous response followed by the worldwide contemptuous reaction to their response

Footnotes

[1] http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/state-lost-highstakes-game-with-two-nuns-1747597.html

[2] Criticism of the Holy See over Child Abuse page 10. Non appearance checked with UN CRC on 11 March 2010. Much useful background information for journalists in this report.

[3] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/apr/24/children.childprotection1 and http://www.sarabite.info/vatletter.pdf

[4] http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/pdfid/3ae6af7f4.pdf Page 9, Paragraph 16(c)

The intervention in full

International Humanist and Ethical Union
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: 13th Session (1 to 26 March 2010)

Speaker: IHEU Representative, Keith Porteous-Wood: Monday 15 March 2010

Agenda Item 4: Matters requiring the attention of the Council

Child Abuse and the Holy See

Mr President

At the 12th session of the Council we noted contravention by the Holy See of several articles of [the Convention on the Rights of the Child] the CRC, and cited evidence of the part played by the Holy See in the cover up of [the long-running and ubiquitous problem of] child abuse by priests and servants of the Catholic Church.[1] But the distinguished delegate of the Holy See, in exercising their right of reply, conspicuously failed to deny our allegations, disingenuously attempting to point the finger of blame elsewhere.[2] He claimed that their report to the CRC, then being finalised would devote “a paragraph ... to child abuse by catholic clergy”. We note however that still, six months later, that report now 13 years overdue, has still yet to be filed.

But what a discourtesy to [this Council and to] the tens of thousands of child victims to suggest that any single paragraph could explain, far less excuse, decades of abuse in respect of which billions of dollars and euros in compensation have already been paid, and investigations in new countries are regularly being announced, [e.g. in Austria, Germany and the Netherlands.]

The claim by the representative of the Holy See that they “were putting their house in order” is not borne out by the facts. [In Ireland, the Papal authorities attempted to obstruct the Murphy Inquiry into the cover up of child abuse by the Dublin diocese,[3] and has refused to cooperate with an inquiry by the Irish Foreign Affairs Committee, refusing to respond to two letters from the Committee to the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, inviting him to appear before it.][4]

To protect children and bring perpetrators to justice, we call on the Holy See:
1. to remove its reservation to the CRC to bring the territory of Vatican City state, to which it has instructed all abuse accusations are to be sent, under the jurisdiction of the CRC,
2. to open up its files and records to CRC and state investigators, and
3. to instruct all its representatives to cooperate with legal investigating authorities worldwide, something that they have signally failed to do in Ireland.

Thank you sir.

Note: the words on [brackets] could not be spoken in the two minutes available.

Mr Porteous Wood is also Executive Director of the National Secular Society.

[1] http://www.iheu.org/iheu-calls-vatican-recognize-its-responsibilities-children-and-under-un-convention

[2] http://www.iheu.org/holy-see-responds-iheu-criticism

[3] http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Ahern%20Receives%20Dublin%20Archdiocese%20Report

[4] http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2010/0216/1224264554852.html

International Humanist and Ethical Union
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: 13th Session (1 to 26 March 2010)

Speaker: IHEU Representative, Keith Porteous-Wood: Monday 15 March 2010

Agenda Item 4: Matters requiring the attention of the Council

Child Abuse and the Holy See

Mr President

At the 12th session of the Council we noted contravention by the Holy See of several articles of [the Convention on the Rights of the Child] the CRC, and cited evidence of the part played by the Holy See in the cover up of [the long-running and ubiquitous problem of] child abuse by priests and servants of the Catholic Church.[1] But the distinguished delegate of the Holy See, in exercising their right of reply, conspicuously failed to deny our allegations, disingenuously attempting to point the finger of blame elsewhere.[2] He claimed that their report to the CRC, then being finalised would devote “a paragraph ... to child abuse by catholic clergy”. We note however that still, six months later, that report now 13 years overdue, has still yet to be filed.

But what a discourtesy to [this Council and to] the tens of thousands of child victims to suggest that any single paragraph could explain, far less excuse, decades of abuse in respect of which billions of dollars and euros in compensation have already been paid, and investigations in new countries are regularly being announced, [e.g. in Austria, Germany and the Netherlands.]

The claim by the representative of the Holy See that they “were putting their house in order” is not borne out by the facts. [In Ireland, the Papal authorities attempted to obstruct the Murphy Inquiry into the cover up of child abuse by the Dublin diocese,[3] and has refused to cooperate with an inquiry by the Irish Foreign Affairs Committee, refusing to respond to two letters from the Committee to the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, inviting him to appear before it.][4]

To protect children and bring perpetrators to justice, we call on the Holy See:
1. to remove its reservation to the CRC to bring the territory of Vatican City state, to which it has instructed all abuse accusations are to be sent, under the jurisdiction of the CRC,
2. to open up its files and records to CRC and state investigators, and
3. to instruct all its representatives to cooperate with legal investigating authorities worldwide, something that they have signally failed to do in Ireland.

Thank you sir.

Note: the words on [brackets] could not be spoken in the two minutes available.

Mr Porteous Wood is also Executive Director of the (UK’s) National Secular Society www.secularism.org.uk

[1] http://www.iheu.org/iheu-calls-vatican-recognize-its-responsibilities-children-and-under-un-convention

[2] http://www.iheu.org/holy-see-responds-iheu-criticism

[3] http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Ahern%20Receives%20Dublin%20Archdiocese%20Report

[4] http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2010/0216/1224264554852.html

Published Sun, 14 Mar 2010