05 February 2014, The Tablet

UN condemns Holy See's record on abuse by priests

The United Nations demanded that the Holy See "immediately remove" all clergy who are known or suspected of having abused minors and report them to civil authorities.

The UN committee on Protection on Rights of the Child today issued a damning and wide-ranging 16-page report following the appearance of a Vatican delegation in Geneva three weeks ago.

The watchdog said the Holy See should also hand over its records on abuse of tens of thousands of children so that culprits, as well as "those who concealed their crimes", could be held accountable.

"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 report said.

It added: “The Committee is particularly concerned that in dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse, the Holy See has consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the Church and the protection of the perpetrators above children’s best interests.”

But the report also mentioned recommendations relating to the Church’s teaching on contraception and abortion.

It recommended the Holy See review its position on abortion, citing the case of a Brazilian archbishop who declared as excommunicated a nine-year-old rape victim and a doctor who performed an abortion on her.

It criticised the “baby boxes” provided by parishes for mothers to abandon unwanted infants and said the Church should instead offer family planning, “reproductive health” and counselling.

The report’s recommendations, which are non-binding, include allowing children born to priests to “know and be cared for by their fathers” and not forcing the mothers of these children to sign confidentiality agreements to gain financial support for the children.

The committee expressed concern at some Vatican statements on homosexuality which it said had contributed to violence against gay teenagers and children raised by same-sex couples.

It also called for an internal investigation into Ireland's Magdalene laundries, to ensure that former residents “forced to work in slavery-like conditions” receive compensation.

The Vatican's response to the report reiterated its commitment to defending and protecting the rights of the child but expressed “regret” at what it described as “an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom”.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, who led the delegation that went to Geneva, later told Vatican Radio: "It almost seems as if (the document) had already been prepared before the committee’s meeting with the Holy See delegation, which offered detailed and precise responses to the various points [found in the report]," said . He said the views of the Holy See delegation stated last month did not appear in the new report or “seem not to have been given serious consideration”.

Read the report here.

Photo: CNS/Paul Haring

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