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UN grills Vatican over cleric pedophiles

Published time: February 05, 2014 12:42
Edited time: November 14, 2014 16:04
AFP Photo / Yasuyoshi Chiba

AFP Photo / Yasuyoshi Chiba

The UN Human Rights Committee has blamed the Vatican for indulging longstanding policies enabling priests to sexually abuse children, and called to open pedophile files and disclose the names of those clergymen who assisted in concealing such crimes.

The Vatican’s UN representative hit back saying the report was distorted, unfair and ideologically biased.

A scathing UN report published on Wednesday accuses the Holy See of a systematic blackout concerning the molestation of children, claiming that tens of thousands of children have been raped by priests.

“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 and the impunity of the perpetrators,” said the report.

The UN Committee recommended the Holy See to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child properly. It is the world’s most important international treaty protecting children's rights. The UN also called for suspected clerics to be handed over to the police.

The report accuses the Catholic Church of putting the organization’s reputation ahead of the duty to protect children and ensure their access to health care.

The UN committee also severely criticized the Vatican for its attitudes toward contraception and abortion and urged it to teach sex education in Catholic schools to ensure children's rights and their access to health care are guaranteed.

In its response to the report, the Vatican said it regrets seeing what it called “an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom.

The Holy See said in a statement that it will submit the report for a “thorough study and examination,” adding that it remains committed to defending and protecting the rights of children “in line with the principles promoted by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and according to the moral and religious values offered by Catholic doctrine.”

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See observer to the UN in Geneva, also suggested that NGOs which favor gay marriages probably influenced the committee to reinforce an "ideological line" in the document, Reuters cited.

Responding to criticisms on the Vatican’s stance on homosexuality, abortion and contraception, the Archbishop also said the UN cannot ask the Church to change its "non-negotiable" moral teachings.

The report followed a harsh interrogation in January of two high-ranking Catholic clerics on known cases of child sex abuse by clergy. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva, and Bishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s former chief prosecutor of sex abuse cases, were interrogated by an 18-member committee for many hours.

To help the clergymen avoid justice, Church hierarchy arranged transfers and other cover-ups for clerics, sometimes simply defrocking them.

“Due to a code of silence imposed on all members of the clergy under penalty of excommunication, cases of child sexual abuse have hardly ever been reported to the law enforcement authorities in the countries where such crimes occurred,” the UN body said.

It must be noted that over the last two years in the Vatican, former pope Benedict XVI defrocked nearly 400 priests for raping and molesting children, but that was presumably only the tip of the iceberg.

In December last year, Pope Francis, who called the decades-long sexual abuse of children by priests “the shame of the Church,” created a commission to investigate child sex abuse in the Catholic Church, and the UN watchdog has called on to the Holy See for more actions on the issue.

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims gathered at Saint Peter's square in the Vatican, upon his arrival to lead the general weekly audience on February 5, 2014. (AFP Photo / Vincenzo Pinto)

Also, the Catholic Church must investigate cases of forced labor in so-called laundries and other similar institutions and prevent a repeat of such cases, prosecuting those responsible and paying full compensation to the victims and their families.

The most notorious case of forced labor in Catholic Church institutions took place in Ireland, where more than 10,000 women, passed through the so-called Magdalene laundries against their will between 1922 and 1996, receiving no pay, pension or social protection. Girls and young women who were homeless, orphaned, unmarried mothers or labeled as ‘fallen’ or ‘troubled’, were sent to ‘Maggies’. Ireland has officially apologized for the forced labor in church-run institutions.