The Vatican is facing fresh criticism from a United Nations report, after a panel of UN representatives demanded the instant discharge of persons known or suspected child abusers. This comes just two months before Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh are due to visit Rome for an audience with Pope Francis.
The observations were based on claims that clergy have not faced consequences for their actions and, in some cases, have been allowed to carry on with the abuse. It also argued that the Vatican, which sits in Vatican City, the world’s smallest country, has not done enough to eradicate the problem.
The blistering attack came just hours after senior members of the British royal family were confirmed to visit Italy in April for a one day visit that was originally scheduled for 2013. It was postponed due to the Queen’s ill health. However, the timing of the criticism could not be worse with the Queen now confirmed to visit the Vatican.
Criticism followed the detailed findings of a UN panel at a hearing last month that examined the Vatican’s compliance with the Convention of the Rights of the Child. The hearing was attended by senior Vatican officials. Although UN panel members acknowledged the Holy See’s commitment to upholding the “inviolable” dignity of children, it did point out that priests guilty of sex crimes were moved to different parishes as part of a cover-up. Furthermore, the Vatican’s attitudes towards homosexuality, contraception and abortion were also questioned.
The Roman Catholic Church has been the subject of severe criticism for decades, with accusations of Nazi collaboration during the World War II followed by alleged cover-ups of ongoing sexual abuse of children. Indeed, the previous pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, was accused by the media of being in collusion with former German Chancellor Adolf Hitler. Benedict, whose real name is Joseph Ratzinger, was in Hitler Youth; following Ratzinger’s 14th birthday in 1941, membership was required by law.
According to reports in British media, the Pope will meet the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in Santa Marta, his Vatican home, as opposed to the Apostolic Palace. It will mark the first meeting between the Queen and Pope Francis. The monarch also visited three of the pontiff’s predecessors in the Eternal City. They were Pius XII, John XXIII and Polish Pope,John Paul II. The April visit is said to be “informal” and the antithesis of her state visit to John Paul II in the Vatican in 1980. Just two years after she met the Pope – then the first non-Italian since Pope Adrian VI, who died in 1523 – the Queen welcomed John Paul II to Britain, making him the first pope ever to visit the country. The Queen subsequently welcomed Benedict XVI in Edinburgh, when he was on a state visit in September 2010.
The Vatican will be expected to address criticism leveled at it from the UN before the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visit the Pope. Guardian Liberty Voice contacted the Vatican but it was unavailable for comment.
By Robert Shepherd