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Coverage of UN report ignores strides made by the Church in dealing with abuse cases

If critics think the Church hasn’t changed, they only need to do a quick online search to learn the truth

By on Thursday, 6 February 2014

Kirsten Sandberg, chairperson of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, speaking at yesterday's press conference (AP)

Kirsten Sandberg, chairperson of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, speaking at yesterday's press conference (AP)

Coverage of the recent review of the Holy See by the United Nations and the subsequent report may incorrectly leave some thinking that the UN has chastised the Church into drastic reforms. The media has applauded this report deemed as a moral judgment on a didactic institution that likes to ‘pontificate’ to the world how to live an ordered life.

The hearing reviewed and took into account the terrible abuses that have been made known or occurred since 2010. The message of the Holy See hasn’t quite sunk in that these kind of scandals are for local bishops to adjudicate and redress within national and international legal frameworks. A three-page Vatican press release written in Italian authored by Fr Lombardi summed it up nicely: “it is not rare to find that the questions posed [by the committee] – above all where they refer to the sexual abuse of minors – seem to presuppose that bishops or religious superiors act as representatives or delegates of the Pope – [though this is] utterly without foundation.”

The UN report has been cordially accepted by the Holy See for consideration but had surprisingly little to do with child abuse and consisted mostly of a list of suggestions to the Holy See about how to “help” children by changing the Church’s stance on abortion, LGBT relationships, and contraceptive education etc.

Concerning child abuse there was a recommendation that the Holy See makes public the old cases and tries to achieve a deeper understanding of the extent of this criminality. Maybe the distant relationship between the Holy See and local ordinaries will never be understood by the UN, which is understandable; the lack of diligence demonstrated by the media in reporting this story isn’t.

Facts such as the horrible crimes being decades or even half a century old are unreported and if one thinks that the Church hasn’t changed despite these horrors they should do a quick online search to see how some dioceses have had to file for bankruptcy after compensating victims and how Benedict XVI was wrongly branded the architect behind the non-removal of priests, secrecy amongst bishops and the lack of transparency of the Vatican proceedings on the matter. We must always keep the victims of these crimes at the forefront of the debate. But they are not well served by the dissemination of inaccurate and out-of-date information about the Holy See’s response to clerical abuse.