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Vatican officials grilled by UN panel on child sex abuse (VIDEO)

This news story was published on January 17, 2014.
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GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – For the first time, the Vatican was publicly confronted over the decades-long scandal of child sexual abuse by clergy.

At a United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) hearing in Geneva, Switzerland held on Thursday, Vatican officials were confronted with pointed and direct questions on how they are attempting to stop the abuse and why they refuse to release data related to priests who had committed or been accused of committing abuses against children.

“This room has never been so packed,” said the Committee on the Rights of the Child as it began the Holy See’s review yesterday, reported. “More chairs were brought in but it was still standing room only, as both the room temperature and dialogue between the Holy See and the Committee heated up throughout the day.”

After a series of questions, Msgr. Charles Scicluna, a former sex crimes prosecutor for the Vatican, said to the Committee: “The Holy See gets it.”

In response, CRIN, a global children’s rights network, tweeted: “Do you? Why then don’t you make statistics public?”

The Vatican (Holy See) has voluntarily ratified the UN Convention on the Rights Child, so like all other State Parties it needs to regularly report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on its adherence to the Convention, which is a legally binding document under international law that includes, among others, children’s right to protection from violence and sexual abuse.

At the time of the ratification in 1990, the Holy See made the following declaration: “The Holy See regards the present Convention as a proper and laudable instrument aimed at protecting the rights and interests of children, who are ‘that precious treasure given to each generation as a challenge to its wisdom and humanity.”

This is the first time the UN has requested such specific details on child sexual abuse from the Holy See. The Holy See has reported to the Committee before, with its first report submitted after ratifying the Convention in 1995. Its second report was due in 1997, but it only submitted it in 2011, after which the Committee scheduled its review for January 2014.

The UN report on Violence Against Children, issued in 2006, cited shocking WHO estimates that 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 experienced forced sexual intercourse and other forms of sexual violence involving physical contact.

Victim advocates hope that the hearing will provoke the church into taking stronger actions to prevent future abuses and to report past crimes. In December, Pope Francis announced that a committee would be set up to prevent sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church.

The Vatican is one of six States due to be examined on its implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child during the Committee’s 65th session, on-going in January.

According to the Vatican’s website, “abusers are found among members of the world’s most respected professions, most regrettably, including members of the clergy and other church personnel. This fact is particularly serious since these persons are in positions of great trust and they are called to levels of service that are to promote and protect all elements of the human person, including physical, emotional, and spiritual health. This relationship of trust is critical and demands a higher sense of responsibility and respect for the persons served. Confronted with this reality, the Holy See has carefully delineated policies and procedures designed to help eliminate such abuse and to collaborate with respective State authorities to fight against this crime.”

Film on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church: “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God” is a 2012 documentary film directed by Alex Gibney. The film details the first known protest against clerical sex abuse in the United States by four deaf men.


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