UN works to break through Vatican impunity on child abuse cases

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Main street entrance to the Vatican City
People walk past the main street entrance to Vatican City near the area where the Swiss Guard stand. Image: Wikipedia

(WNN) United Nations, Geneva, SWITZERLAND, WESTERN EUROPE: As the UN monitoring Committee on the Rights of the Child issues a pointed, detailed and critical report on Wednesday February 5, the centuries long Vatican policy of impunity to report child predators may be cracking open ‘a tiny bit’ as the UN Committee asks for the impunity to stop for officials who have been given authority by the Holy See.

Reviewing numerous reports and child sexual abuse cases that provide a window into the tortures of secrecy and guilt for children under child abuse within the Roman Catholic Church, the UN Child Rights Committee is bringing the Holy See to task.

Asking that the office of the Pontiff open the files to bring detailed information on child sexual abuse cases forward, the UN Committee also asked for details showing how the Holy See is restricting members of authority within the Church after knowledge of their sexual predatory behavior against children has been discovered.

While some measures to begin to discuss the decades old problem have been put in place more recently by the Church, the issue of child predators who remain hiding inside the Church is a concern for child advocates who are now also trying help adult survivors of sexual abuse.

“The pope has made many feel hopeful with his personal humility, down-to-earth gestures, and obvious deep compassion for the poor,” said Barbara Blaine, president of SNAP – Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who works closely with programs to help abuse survivors. “But he has not made a single child safer. He hasn’t exposed one predator priest or disciplined one corrupt bishop,” she continued.

The problems still basically comes down to impunity, outlines the UN Committee for Rights of the Child.

“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 Committee said in their recent report release.

This is not the only request the UN is asking of the Holy See. The UN wants to know details, specific details on: “The type of support and protection provided by the Holy See to child victims of sexual abuse testifying against their sexual abusers and the cases where children were silenced in order to minimize the risk of public disclosure,” as well as any “investigations and legal proceedings conducted under penal canon law against perpetrators of sexual crimes and their outcome.” These and other questions have been put to the Holy See directly, but a detailed response to the questions to date has not been made.

Offering a response that has been seen as both philosophic and compassionate, yet evasive and vague, the Holy See’s response to the Committee to date continues to outline its wide concern for all children who have been subject to abuse, but swift public remedial actions by the Church under child abuse cases is yet to come forward. In the meantime some advocates feel that dangerous members of the clergy may still be out there in close proximity to children.

“We think it is a horrible thing that is being kept silent both by the Holy See itself and in the different local parishes,” said Committee on the Rights of the Child Committee Chairperson Kristen Sandberg in a public statement made during a Wednesday February 5 press meeting at UN Geneva.

So the question remains: Does the Holy See ultimately hold legal responsibility for the actions of those in authority who work under the vast wings of the Roman Catholic Church in locations around the world?

Currently the Holy See policy says no, it holds no legal responsibility. It is only responsible in legal terms for the actions of those who live inside the Vatican City, not outside the City’s boundaries, outlines the Holy See. That policy may work to keep the Vatican an ‘arms length’ away from any civic legal responsibilities under the law, but child advocates worldwide say justice cannot be ignored for those who continue to suffer.

As the issue of errant priests presses down on Pope Francis, who has been widely popular worldwide, the Pontiff wrote a special November 24, 2013 message to his Bishops, clergy and parishioners on the topic of the “Temptations Faced by Pastoral Workers.”

“I feel tremendous gratitude to all those who are committed to working in and for the Church. Here I do not wish to discuss at length the activities of the different pastoral workers, from bishops down to those who provide the most humble and hidden services. Rather, I would like to reflect on the challenges that all of them must face in the context of our current globalized culture. But in justice, I must say first that the contribution of the Church in today’s world is enormous. The pain and the shame we feel at the sins of some members of the Church, and at our own, must never make us forget how many Christians are giving their lives in love,” said Pope Francis in his November 2013 Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel) message.

In addition to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child monitor of the Holy See on mismanagement of its child predators, the issue in the of abuse of women and girls at Ireland’s now infamous Magdalene Laundries is not being put to rest. The Committee has also asked for the Holy See to respond to inquiries in what reports made to the UN Committee against Torture have described as ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’ of the young women who were forced to live in Ireland’s Church-run institutions for unmarried girls.


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