UN children's body slates Vatican over child abuse

Posted: Wed, 05 Feb 2014

UN children's body slates Vatican over child abuse

A United Nations committee has issued a scathing report accusing the Vatican of putting the reputation and interests of the Holy See above the interests of children who had been sexually abused by priests.

The report from the UN committee on the Rights of the Child again repeats the demand for the Vatican to hand over its archives on sexual abuse of tens of thousands of children so that culprits, as well as "those who concealed their crimes", could be held accountable.

The United Nations has also demanded the Vatican "immediately remove" all clergy who are known or suspected child abusers and turn them over to civil authorities, in an unprecedented and scathing report.

The committee's report, published today, said: "The Committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators."

The UNCRC has called on a commission created by Pope Francis in December to investigate all cases of child sexual abuse "as well as the conduct of the Catholic hierarchy in dealing with them."

The Committee also called for an investigation of the Magdalene laundries so that those responsible for abusing children could be prosecuted and to allow "full compensation be paid to the victims and their families".

The UNCRC said the Catholic Church had not yet taken measures to prevent a repeat of cases such as the Magdalene scandal, where girls were arbitrarily placed in conditions of forced labour.

The Committee rejected the Vatican's contention that it was responsible for implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child only on the territory of the Vatican City. In ratifying the convention it was also responsible, as the supreme power of the Catholic Church, for ensuring implementation through individuals and institutions placed under its authority, said the UN Committee.

The Committee also severely rebuked the Holy See for its attitudes toward homosexuality, contraception and abortion and said it should review its policies to ensure children's rights and their access to health care are guaranteed.

The report has been warmly welcomed by the National Secular Society, which has long campaigned to ensure the Vatican is held to account for its failure to address the issue of child abuse.

Keith Porteous Wood, National Secular Society executive director, commented:

"The scale of abuse both numerically and geographically by Catholic clerics already known is massive, and the individual suffering it has caused, sometimes resulting in suicides, is immeasurable. That abuse is further compounded at Vatican level by flagrantly breaching the Convention by continuing to do everything in its power to shield abusing clerics from justice and keep their abuse secret.

"Lawyers confirm that evidence abounds of the Church at all levels continuing, even following the resignation of Pope Benedict, to do everything in its power to shield abusing Catholic clerics from justice and maintain secrecy, and do the least possible for victims. It does not seem credible that Pope Francis was not consulted prior to the refusal over the last few months of the Holy See/Vatican to answer the Committee's most important written and oral questions, or to the recall of the former papal Nuncio of the Dominican Republic credibly accused of serious abuse of minors. He is now under the protection of the Vatican, which refuses to allow him to be submitted to justice in the Dominican Republic, or in Poland – of which he was until very recently a citizen.

"Pope Francis has already missed opportunities to assert his authority to reverse the Church's damaging policies over clerical abuse and unless he responds positively and quickly to the demands of the Committee, he risks history judging his whole papacy a failure."

The National Secular Society made written submissions to the Committee, concerning the continuing shielding of abusing clerics by the Catholic Church worldwide. The Society, along with a small number of victims' groups, gave oral evidence and was cross examined by the Committee in June 2013 in a private pre-sessional meeting of the Committee.

The Society also made a submission to the Committee setting out why the refusal of the Holy See to accept responsibility under the Convention for abuse of children worldwide by clerics of the Church, given the centralised control of the Vatican, itself constituted a breach of the Convention. This submission was formally endorsed by prominent international human rights lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson QC.

Read the Concluding Observations of the CRC Committee to the Holy See in full here (pdf).

Tags: Catholic Church, Child Abuse