Vatican faces UN showdown on sex abuse report

2014-01-15 18:18
(Fillippo Monteforte, AFP)

(Fillippo Monteforte, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Vatican City - The Vatican is gearing up for a bruising showdown over the global priest sex abuse scandal, forced to defend itself publicly for the first time against allegations it enabled the rape of thousands of children by protecting paedophile priests and its own reputation at the expense of victims.

The Holy See on Thursday will be grilled by a UN committee in Geneva on its implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which among other things calls for signatories to take all appropriate measures to protect children from harm and to put children's interests above all else.

The Holy See ratified the convention in 1990 and submitted a first implementation report in 1994. But it didn't provide progress reports for nearly a decade, and only submitted one in 2012 after coming under criticism following the 2010 explosion of child sex abuse cases in Europe and beyond.

Victims groups and human rights organisations rallied together to press the UN committee to challenge the Holy See on its abuse record, providing written testimony from victims and evidence outlining the global scale of the problem.

Their reports cite case studies in Mexico and Britain, grand jury investigations in the US, and government fact-finding inquiries from Canada to Ireland to Australia that detail how Vatican policies, its culture of secrecy and fear of scandal contributed to the problem.

Their submissions reference Vatican documentation that show its officials knew about a notorious Mexican molester decades before taking action, correspondence from a Vatican cardinal praising a French bishop's decision to protect his abusive priest, and even quotes from the former Vatican No 2 saying bishops shouldn't be expected to turn their priests into police.

Answers sought

"For too many years, survivors were the only ones speaking out about this and bearing the brunt of a lot of criticism," said Pam Spees, a human rights attorney for the Centre for Constitutional Rights, which provided a key report to the committee. "And so this is a very important moment for many, many people who are here in Geneva and around the world who will be watching as the Holy See is called for the first time ever to actually answer questions."

Indeed, to date the Holy See has never had to defend its record in public or in court since it has successfully argued that it is immune from lawsuits as a sovereign state and that, regardless, bishops were responsible for paedophile priests in their care, not the pope or his policies. Even efforts to have the Vatican investigated for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court withered.

But the Vatican was compelled to submit to the UN rights scrutiny as a signatory of the convention, and officials have privately said they are hoping at best to do damage control at Thursday's session.

The Vatican will be represented by its most authoritative official on the issue, Monsignor Charles Scicluna, for a decade the Holy See's chief sex crimes prosecutor.

 He is credited with having overhauled the Vatican's procedures to better prosecute paedophiles in-house, but the Vatican to date has refused to instruct its bishops to report suspected cases of abuse to police, saying they need only do so when required by local laws.

"When abusers are in jail, they don't harm kids," said Miguel Hurtado, a member of the main US-based victims' advocacy group Snap, who said he was abused by a priest in the Catholic youth group he attended as a youngster in Catalonia, Spain. "And they failed to do that."

Protecting children

Hurtado and Spees spoke to UN correspondents in Geneva before Thursday's session, during which the Vatican will be asked about its overall policies, what it has done to protect children and specific cases including the mistreatment of seminarians in the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order, which is currently being run by the Vatican itself.

The committee had also asked the Holy See to provide detailed information on all cases of abuse that were brought to its attention - a number the Vatican has acknowledged tops 4 000.

But in its written response to the committee submitted last month, the Vatican declined to provide such information and ducked many of the committee's questions.

It argued that it was not responsible for the actions of every Catholic, much less every priest or parish in the world. It says it is really only responsible for implementing the UN treaty where it exercises territorial control: the 44 hectares of the Vatican City State in downtown Rome, where 31 children currently live.

"This representation by the Holy See is particularly disingenuous in light of the all-too-numerous accounts of efforts by bishops, archbishops, cardinals and other church officials around the world to cover up these crimes and subvert the course of justice in other states, further compounding the harm to victims," the Centre for Constitutional Rights and Snap said in response.

They accused the Vatican of failing to acknowledge the "authority, control and oversight it exercises" over church institutions and personnel worldwide.

While arguing that its jurisdiction is limited to the Vatican City State, the Holy See at the same time sought to highlight the ways in which it has promoted programmes to protect children and keep paedophiles out of the priesthood.

Bishops' conferences are now required to have guidelines to fight abuse. Last month, Pope Francis established a commission to study best practices and the Vatican last summer updated its local laws to criminalise abuse of children.

The UN committee, which is composed of independent experts, not other UN member states, will issue its final observations and recommendations 5 February.

- AP
Read more on:    un  |  pope francis  |  vatican city  |  child abuse
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
4 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Health

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Pre-order your iPhone 6 at kalahari.com

Hurry and pre-order your own iPhone 6 now at SA’s favourite online store!

Bargain box – 60% off

Reduced prices, very limited stock. While stocks last. Hurry and shop now!

Mind blow low prices on electronics

Get either the Prestigio multiphone or Proline tablet 7” tablet for only R699. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off Barbie toys

Save 30% on all Barbie toys and accessories. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Baby extravanganza month at kalahari.com

Celebrate baby month with a wide range of awesome baby products. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Something may be bothering you. A flooded mind and impulsive reactions are not a good combination as you are not thinking clearly....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.