A UN human rights committee denounced the Vatican for “systematically” adopting policies that allowed priests to rape and molest tens of thousands of children over decades, and urged it to open its files on paedophiles and the bishops who concealed their crimes.
In a damning report, the UN committee also severely criticised the Holy See for its attitudes toward homosexuality, contraception, and abortion and said it should change its own canon law to ensure children’s rights and their access to healthcare are guaranteed.
The UN blasted the “code of silence” that has long been used to keep victims quiet, saying the Holy See had “systematically placed preservation of the reputation of the Church and the alleged offender over the protection of child victims”.
It called on the Holy See to provide compensation to victims and hold abusers and those who covered up their crimes to account.
“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.
Executive director of abuse survivor group One in Four Maeve Lewis said: “This vindicates absolutely what survivors of abuse have been saying over the past decade. The Vatican has always tried to lay responsibility for child sexual abuse on the individual offenders and on local bishops.
“It has never admitted that its policies and regulations ensured that priests were protected at the expense of children’s safety. This falsehood is now exposed.
“If the Vatican is to retain any credibility it must immediately abide by the committee’s recommendations, hand over all its records and immediately put in place a policy of mandatory reporting of sexual crimes.”
The report urged the Holy See to establish clear rules for the mandatory reporting of abuse to police and to support laws that allow victims to report crimes even after the statute of limitations has expired.
No Catholic bishop has ever been sanctioned for sheltering an abusive priest.
The committee issued its recommendations after subjecting the Holy See to a day-long interrogation last month on its implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The committee’s recommendations are non-binding. Rather, the UN asked the Vatican to implement the recommendations and report back by 2017. The Vatican was 14 years late submitting its most recent report.
The Vatican said it would study the report and reiterated its commitment to defending and protecting children’s rights. It took issue with the committee’s recommendations to change core church teachings.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties said: “In the light of these unprecedented findings, the ICCL is calling upon the Pope’s diplomatic representative in Ireland to provide a detailed account of the action that will be taken in this State to ensure that these shortcomings are rectified.”
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