Published on 5 Feb 2014

Child abuse and the Catholic church: is the Vatican still resisting reform?

In some ways, the damning UN report into the Vatican’s handling of child abuse is no surprise, but the details still hold the power to appal.

Priests who were well known abusers were moved from parish to parish or sent abroad.

Tens of thousands of children across the world suffered while the Vatican, with its code of silence, allowed the vast majority of their abusers to evade justice.

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Nuns and priests who did speak out were ostracised and condemned. Priests who refused to denounce child abusers were congratulated.

This was a Church which put its reputation above the safety and well being of children.

Perhaps worst of all, the report says,  the evidence it has gathered proves children are still at risk from abuse by priests allowed to live and work unchecked in many countries across the world.

The Vatican has issued a rather wordy statement today which in essence says the Holy See “takes note of the observations in the report” and promises that it will be subject to a thorough study and examination.

But  it will be judged by what it actually does in the coming months to respond to this scathing report.

When he was elected last year Pope Francis said the church’s credibility rested on how it tackled the issue of child abuse which has so beleaguered his church.

He expressed his compassion for victims and set up a new Vatican commission, encouraging many within and without the Catholic church to believe that he was determined to bring about real change.

But the UN Committee say the church has proved itself neither capable nor willing to properly root out abuse. It issues an urgent demand for the Vatican to remove all clergy known or suspected of abuse and hand them over to  the authorities.

At an earlier committee hearing, the Vatican refused calls to even hand over their data on abuse cases, so the idea they will hand over abusers themselves seems unlikely.

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The UN Committee’s recommendations are not binding – nor has it any powers of enforcement. But its report is a brutal reminder of the open wound which remains at the heart of the Catholic Church, a reminder of the tens of thousands of children still waiting for justice.

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3 reader comments

  1. Judy Jones says:

    This UN report gives hope to the thousands of still suffering clergy sex abuse victims throughout the world. This report says Catholic church officials are to….

    —Immediately remove all known and suspected child sexual abusers from assignment and refer the matter to the relevant law enforcement authorities for investigation and prosecution purposes;

    —Ensure a transparent sharing of all archives which can be used to hold the abusers accountable as well as all those who concealed their crimes and knowingly placed offenders in contact with children

    —Promote the reform of statute of limitations in countries where they impede victims of child sexual abuse from seeking justice and redress; (In reality, time and time again, Catholic officials have worked hard (even hiring lobby groups) to fight against the SOL reform.)

    Now it’s up to secular officials (especially legislators and law enforcement) to follow the UN’s lead and step in to safeguard innocent children, because Catholic officials are either incapable or unwilling to do so. According to this UN report, “the Vatican still places children in many countries at high risk of sexual abuse, as dozens of child sexual offenders are reported to still be in contact with children.

    Silence is not an option anymore, only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.
    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511,
    SNAP “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests”

    1. Andi Lavery says:

      Statue limitations especially in Scotland AKA time barring means a large number of Paedophile priests evade justice

      It’s utterly horrendous and church insurers simply say ” why didn’t you complain at the time?”

      Oh I bloody did, hence the bloody.

      They know no shame…

      I wish for full redress and proper support and aid for survivors, robust child protection and resources for police and ancillary services.

      I feel like I’m locked in a war – a leper & without hope of justice.

      Yet I fight everyday as I know this is the most wrong thing both to endure or witness and it must be tackled and be seen to be tackled!

      Andi – Survivor of Benedictine abuse

  2. Andi Lavery says:

    I agree whole hearted this issue is horrendously denied ignored and frowned upon by the Catholic Church

    Urgent action to tackle it

    Immediate support and aid for abuse survivors both clerical and non clerical

    Seizure of assets to enable this

    Mandatory reporting of abuse

    A full Public Inquiry

    Access to healthcare and safeguards to ensure one is treated with dignity

    The Catholic Church is utterly shameful in their approach to this and simply doesn’t give a hoot about children or the carnage.

    Their pattern is deny deny deny and hope the survivors of abuse go away.

    From the deniers of abuse – Austen Ivereigh & others who attack, ignore and treat with utter contempt the harrowing abuse suffered by children and young adults and patronise and belittle the attempts of those same victims striving to achieve justice.

    Telling lies on tv interviews then writing letters saying exact opposite shows unless there is urgent serious action at a Government level, nothing will change.

    My own experience even trying to realise justice has been awful, ignored and played mind games upon by a bishop who angrily scrawled on his response to my lawyer requesting urgent support, including access health care to alleviate my distress.

    The bishop even sent my lawyers request on to my abusers, that was October 2013 in Britain.

    Abusers remain in their parishes, daily contact with children, this despite police concerns.

    Nothing will ever ever change I think….

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