Vatican under pressure over child abuse report

The UN Chamber in Geneva

The Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNHRC) says the Vatican is ignoring her calls to produce a report on child protection that is 13 years overdue. This follows interventions made at the UN by NSS Executive Director Keith Porteous Wood, on behalf of the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

Associated Press (AP) contacted the UNCRC Chair, Yanghee Lee, about the missing report. She told them: "I've made contact with the Holy See on several occasions, [but] I haven't received anything." She added that the treaty contains no penalties for countries that fail to deliver their reports on time – or even at all.

AP noted that “While the Vatican delivered an initial report in 1995, the second, third and fourth reports are now overdue, according to Lee. This puts it on a par with the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis. Only five the (sic) Pacific minnow states — the Cook Islands, Nauru, Niue, Tuvalu and Tonga — have failed to deliver any kind of report.”

The story quotes at length from the breathtakingly arrogant and disingenuous response of the Vatican to the intervention at the UN made by Keith Porteous Wood.

The Holy See’s response to Wood’s criticism provoked worldwide outrage. For example American Public Radio (equivalent of BBC Radio 4) said: “let Archbishop Tomasi have the limelight and the microphone all to himself. It is hard to imagine what the Church could possibly do to look worse than it already did in the face of a global scandal that has cost it $2 billion in settlements in the United States alone. Hard to imagine ... and yet somehow, that’s precisely what it did.”

Stung by this humiliation, the Vatican has gone into bunker mode. It sat silently, and stony faced, while Keith made an even more pointed attack six months later, and also went to ground when AP tried to contact it for the current report.

We welcome AP’s report. It adds to a number of impressive investigations that their staff around the world have conducted which have contributed towards holding the Vatican to account.

Keith Porteous Wood comments: “Whatever powers the UN has, it is thanks to media pressure that the Vatican is now under the greatest pressure it has experienced since Italy declared war on the Papal States in 1870. Hardly a month goes by without a revelation of large scale child abuse in yet another country. Significantly, more recent reports often demonstrate culpability at the highest levels in the countries concerned, or in the Vatican itself. And there is more to come.”