Vatican refuses to share sex abuse investigations with U.N. panel

ROME Tue Dec 3, 2013 9:04pm EST

Pope Francis waves as he leads the Angelus prayer from the window of the Apostolic Palace in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican December 1, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Pope Francis waves as he leads the Angelus prayer from the window of the Apostolic Palace in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican December 1, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

ROME (Reuters) - The Vatican refused to provide a United Nations rights panel with information on the Church's internal investigations into the sexual abuse of children by clergy, saying on Tuesday that its policy was to keep such cases confidential.

In response to a series of tough questions posed by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Holy See said it would not release information on its internal investigations into abuse cases unless required to do so by a request from a state or government to cooperate in legal proceedings.

The response of the Holy See, which will be directly questioned by the panel in January 2014, will be closely watched as it tries to draw a line under financial scandals and abuse by priests that have damaged the standing of the Roman Catholic Church around the world.

Since becoming the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years, Pope Francis has largely succeeded in changing the subject after the resignation of Benedict XVI in February.

The questions from the panel aimed to assess the Church's adherence to the 1990 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty guaranteeing a full range of human rights for children which the Holy See has signed.

In its response the Vatican said internal disciplinary proceedings "are not open to the public" in order to protect "witnesses, the accused and the integrity of the Church process", but said this should not discourage victims from reporting crimes to state authorities.

However, it said state laws, including the obligation to report crimes, must be respected.

The Holy See noted it was "deeply saddened by the scourge of sexual abuse" and emphasized that it had changed the requirements for admitting candidates for priesthood, updated canon law, and asked bishops' conferences to draw up guidelines to combat abuse.

But it indicated the Vatican could not be held responsible for the behavior of institutions or individual Catholics around the world and said local bishops had the responsibility of ensuring children were protected.

"The Holy See does not exercise effective control over the local activities of Catholic institutions around the world," the response read, indicating the Catholic Church's central administration could only be held accountable for events within the Vatican City State.

The U.S.-based advocacy group the Center for Constitutional Rights criticized the responses as too vague.

"In claiming it only bears responsibility for what happens inside Vatican City and blaming the lack of prevention ... on local governments, the Holy See has taken one of its most explicitly disingenuous and misleading positions on the issue to date," the rights group said in a statement.

(Reporting by Naomi O'Leary; editing by Christopher Wilson)

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Comments (2)
Physician wrote:
I am a physician who has met many who have been sexually abused by priests. I myself was sexually assaulted by a Carmelite priest when I was a young doctor in Dublin, Ireland. As a Catholic, I am saddened that Pope Francis refuses to cooperate with the United Nations in ending the worldwide sexual abuse of innocent children and vulnerable adults by priests, nuns, brothers, bishops, cardinals. In my case, I shared my story with the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin. He referred all cases to the police for investigation and removed my predator from ministry. Archbishop D. Martin is the only member of the hierarchy, to my knowledge, who is doing what he believes Jesus would do in making the sexual predators accountable to civil law. For centuries, the popes and the hierarchy have demanded secrecy, denial of the truth, protection of the predators, re-victimization of the victims, leading to suicides around the world by victims who gave up hope that their stories would be believed because of the denial of the truth by the predators and by the hierarchy. I was hoping that Pope Francis would have the integrity and desire to live in the truth like Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has. I am sad to see that Pope Francis seems to lack the courage and integrity to do what Jesus would do in making the sexual predators accountable to civil law. Jesus said the truth will set us free. Pope Francis does not seem to trust the Holy Spirit to set the church free by giving all files on clergy sexual abuse in the Vatican and elsewhere to the police and to the United Nations for investigation. The church cannot be allowed any longer to investigate its own crimes, especially its crimes against innocent children.

Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Dec 04, 2013 3:51pm EST  --  Report as abuse
abecedarian wrote:
Why is the UN requesting private files of the Catholic Church? Are they also requesting case files from the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Dalai Lama or other presumptive heads of religious sects?

The Vatican State (as in the actual autonomous state) may be a signatory to the UN treaty and while many key positions (namely the Pope) may overlap with the Catholic Church proper as both government officials and religious clergy, the possible right of the UN to request information from the Vatican State does not translate into the right to request information about all 1.2 billion Catholics, especially those who may be from countries not signatories to the UN treaty (such as the United States) and those who did not provide permission to have their information released to the UN.

If this is a UN excuse for finessing private information from the Catholic Church, it’s a poor one. In fact, maybe the UN should focus first on their “peacekeeping” troops sexually abusing the very people they’re supposed to protect.

Dec 04, 2013 9:18pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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