The Vatican was blasted by the United Nations over its child abusing clergy in a report released by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The scathing report accused the Holy See of essentially moving child abusing clerics from diocese to diocese in an effort to cover up widespread molestation and abuse. The controversy marks the biggest volatility between the Vatican and the UN since 1994.
1994 marked the year the UN was hosting its annual conference on population in Cairo, and it was then that the Vatican forced the UN to back down from its suggestion of abortion as a form of birth control. The current report states that the UN is concerned by the apparent lack of worry that the Vatican has demonstrated over the crimes that have been committed, and suggested that the Vatican knows about tens of thousands of children that have been abused by members of the clergy.
In January, the Vatican admitted over 400 priests had been defrocked amid claims that they were abusing children, either sexually or otherwise. Pope Benedict XVI had conducted the defrocking over a two-year period.
While the Vatican has said it will look into the claims asserted by the report, Vatican officials have made comments about interference by the UN into how the Vatican interacts with the younger members of the congregation.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s delegation head to the United Nations in Geneva, said that he could not see if the report had considered that the Vatican was putting several regulations in place specifically for the protection of children and was trying to demonstrate that the Catholic Church was truly a reformed one. In fact, Tomasi said that the regulations that the church was suggesting and putting forward were sound and that it was evidence that the Vatican was taking the efforts to reform seriously.
Tomasi did, however, chastise the committee for what he believed was interference in the church’s moral teachings. He believed that non-governmental agencies supporting gay marriage possibly influenced the committee’s report. The committee wants to see the Vatican hand over a substantial amount of evidence about what they say is the abuse of tens of thousands of children, including evidence involving the girls forced to work in Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries.
The US-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), led by president Barbara Blaine, said the UN report from the Committee on the Rights of the Child supports everything that SNAP has been saying for years. The UN says that the Vatican needs to be open about the scope of the abuse that has occurred for decades, and quit adhering to the code of silence that appears to have been in place for years on both predator priests and their victims.
While the Vatican is still stinging from the lambasting received about its child abusing clergy, the Holy See remains firm in its stance that it has been focused on protecting children’s rights. The Vatican continues to be firm in its stance that some of the other issues in the UN report – such as the contention the Vatican needs to be more flexible about the conditions in which girls should be allowed to seek an abortion – came about as a result of interference by non-governmental agencies. Pope Francis, however, has said that the sexual abuse scandals continue to be the shame of the Church. The UN hopes to see the scandal-plagued church tackle their sex abusing priests and address the issues more promptly than it seems to have done in the past.
By Christina St-Jean