The head of the International Centre for Child Protection at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, said recommendations made in a damning UN report on the Church’s child protection record should be regarded by the Holy See as an “incentive”.
Fr Hans Zollner made his comments after the United Nations’ committee on children’s rights on 5 February published a report excoriating the Holy See for lack of compliance with parts of the international Convention on the Rights of the Child. The UN committee questioned Holy See officials for nearly six hours at a public hearing in Geneva three weeks earlier about its adherence to the convention.
Fr Zollner told Vatican Radio after the publication of the UN’s report that it was high time for the Vatican to face a UN evaluation. “I have the impression that the Holy See did itself no favours by not delivering the requested reports for 14 years,” he said.
The Holy See’s UN representatives “have now had to face purgatory and take all the fury, disappointment and justified annoyance upon themselves,” Fr Zollner said.
His views were echoed by the Jesuit headteacher whose revelations of historic clerical abuse at his school triggered an avalanche of similar revelations in German-speaking countries in 2010.
Fr Klaus Mertes, headmaster of the prestigious Canisius College in Berlin, told the daily Kölner Stadtanzeiger that although not all the UN’s accusations were correct, the Vatican must allow external investigations and make its child protection procedures more transparent.
“Punishment must hurt the perpetrators, those who covered up for them and the institution that backed them,” he emphasised. Bishops who were involved in hushing up cases should either lose their episcopal office or step down, he said.
The Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi issued a three-page response to the report late last week. In it he accused the UN of “ideological bias” because of its refusal to recognise all that the Holy See and the Church “have done in recent years” to combat the sexual abuse of minors.
Fr Lombardi said on 7 February that the committee’s ensuing report had “not taken adequate account of the responses” the officials gave, suggesting that it had been “practically already written or at least clearly mapped out before the hearing”.
He said the Holy See would continue working with the UN “with openness to justified criticism” but “with courage and determination, without timidity”.
Above: Fr Mertes and Fr Lombardi. Photo: www.kolleg-st-blasien.de