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UN asks Vatican to account for every abuse allegation it has received

By on Friday, 12 July 2013

Giuseppe Dalla Torre, president of the Vatican City State court, left, and Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi (Photo: CNS)

Giuseppe Dalla Torre, president of the Vatican City State court, left, and Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi (Photo: CNS)

A United Nations committee concerned with children’s rights is requesting that the Vatican provide complete details about every accusation it has ever received of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, published “a list of issues” it found lacking in the Vatican’s latest report on its compliance with international obligations.

The Vatican is being asked to provide “detailed information on all cases of child sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy, brothers and nuns”, as well as how it has responded to victims and perpetrators of abuse, whether it ever investigated “complaints of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” of girls in the Magdalene laundries in Ireland and how it dealt with allegations that young boys, who were part of the Legion of Christ, were being separated from their families.

The committee also requested information on what the Vatican has done to address discrimination between boys and girls in Catholic schools, including removing sexual stereotypes in school textbooks, whether it has “clearly condemned” corporal punishment of children, if it still labels children born out of wedlock as “illegitimate”; and how it is working to prevent child abandonment and trace infants’ identities when Church-run facilities receive unwanted children, including through so-called “baby boxes”.

The committee also asked the Vatican to explain what measures it took to “avoid retaliation against child victims of pornography” and whistleblowers, and whether the Vatican ever investigated recently discovered allegations of thousands of babies being “sold for adoption over the past decades in Spain by a network of doctors, nun and priests”.

The committee had also requested that the Vatican clarify whether it had explicitly defined and criminalised the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

In an on-going effort to bring its legal system and laws up to date, the Vatican issued a number of new measures this week to comply with provisions required by a number of UN conventions the Vatican is party to, including explicitly outlawing the crime of torture and providing a broader definition of the category of crimes against minors.

Giuseppe Dalla Torre, president of the Vatican City State court, told reporters that such offences were always crimes in the Vatican, but a new law makes the criminal activities and penalties more explicit. That’s because the penal code used by the Vatican is based on Italian laws from the 19th to early 20th centuries, which meant there were no provisions against some things, such as child pornography.

The UN committee requires governments of signatory countries of the convention and its two optional protocols on child trafficking and on armed conflict to submit a comprehensive review of how convention regulations are being implemented, as well as progress reports every five years.

The Vatican has been party to the 1989 convention since 1990, but had been lagging behind in turning in its mandatory reports.

After reviewing the Vatican’s most recent periodic report, the UN committee published in response a four-page outline of concerns and requests for additional information and clarifications. It asked the Vatican to respond by November, before the committee meets for further review in January 2014.

The Holy See was just one of six countries, including Germany, Russia and Yemen, whose reviews by the UN committee were published in early July on the committee’s website.

Almost all of the reviews requested more information about how countries were dealing with the problems of sexual abuse, violence and corporal punishment against minors, though without the kind of detail requested of the Vatican.

Each review was also tailored to specific situations of concern in each country, such as female genital mutilation and child marriages in Yemen, criteria used to remove children from their parents in Russia, and mental health guidelines in Germany for diagnosing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

  • Guest

    I fail to see how the grossly exaggerated allegations that have been spread about in anti-Catholic propaganda concerning the Magdalene laundry houses, which were set up and established by the Irish Government, can be the responsibility at a diplomatic level of the Diocese of Rome as it exists in Vatican City State and Italy.

    Indeed, but just imagine the media outcry if a representative of the Vatican said exactly that. The lawyers representing victims of abuse (SNAP, the Center for Constitutional Rights et al.) want to make the Holy See legally culpable so that they can be sued for financial settlements in international courts. The secularists want to limit the Church’s diplomatic influence and undermine its legal personality under international law. The purpose of using the UNCRC is to try and either make the Holy See admit culpability or to make the results look like evidence that the Holy See is culpable. If the Holy See denies culpability it will be accused of protecting abusers. If it cooperates fully and admits culpability, the reports will still fall short of the wildest allegations and it will be accused of protecting abusers. If it cooperates fully and the UN is satisfied, it will be pointed out that all the information provided was only done on a voluntary basis and that one of the rejected demands was to “open up to UNCRC workers and others working in child welfare all its archives in Vatican City State and in States parties …” ( http://iheu.org/story/un-publishes-iheu-statement-child-abuse-and-holy-see ). Since this won’t have been done, the Holy See will be accused of protecting abusers. If the Holy See decides this is all just a ploy and withdraws from the treaty, the Holy See will be accused of protecting abusers and a complaint will be filed elsewhere that the Holy See is operating on a double standard whereas it uses the UN to push a pro-life agenda while not honouring its own obligations–Michael Nugent states just as much in the post you linked to.

  • TreenonPoet

    Dear Vatican -

    You do not seem to understand your obligations as a ratifier to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. You are in no position to make demands of us.

    To its shame, the United States has not yet ratified the Convention. You do not indicate what changes you would like to see Saudi Arabia make to their textbooks. While we realise that some of the statements they make in textbooks for schoolchildren are blatantly false, we are up against a powerful religious lobby who argue that such statements should be respected if they are religious in nature. There is a similar problem regarding Sharia Law. Please let us know which African states do not outlaw the burning alive of Christians.

    We would remind you that states that have ratified the Convention are required to report to our Committee every five years, yet your report, which was due in 1997, was not filed until 2011. We would also remind you that your obligations under the Convention apply to covert foreign interference by you (since you are obliged to work with other governments towards ensuring that all children are protected). To that end, we would welcome your early response to our questions. I am sure that we do not need to remind you of the consequences for the Catholic Church of flouting the Convention.

    - UN

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    Pole-dancing arrogance, Treeny.

    I am sure that we do not need to remind you of the consequences for the Catholic Church of flouting the Convention

    If you were to consult the treaty document, you would discover that the consequences for the Catholic Church for flouting any and all contents that she has expressed formal disagreement with, on the basis of her inalienable and sovereign doctrinal and policy principles, are liable to be NIL.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    The lawyers representing victims of abuse (SNAP, the Center for
    Constitutional Rights et al.) want to make the Holy See legally culpable
    so that they can be sued for financial settlements in international
    courts

    Except for some particular cases of criminal allegations directly involving domicile and some related issues, the International Courts simply DO NOT HAVE jurisdiction for judging such things in the first place.

    All that these people are doing is a legally meaningless PR stunt.

    There is NO REASON why the Holy See should need to withdraw from the Treaty on the basis of such feeble legal viduity.

  • Mitsy

    If the church breaks the law of just about every country in the world, by abusing children and covering up the crime, it should be dealt with by International Law…Or do you think the fact that child abuse is illegal is human interference and the Church should not be held accountable…And don’t blame it on homosexual priests…because many of the abuses were children, many were teenage girls that got made pregnant too…I don’t ever want to live in a Catholic state, neither do most of the Irish anymore…

  • Guest

    Indeed.

    Though stating what SNAP and the Center for Constitutional Rights are trying to do is one thing; describing the realities of International law is quite another.

  • Mitsy

    Many people would like to see that last Pope in The Hague, many of those people are Catholics who have been abused and seen no action against the priest that carried it out and no justice…I hope Pope Francis will cooperated and get this issue out in the open and face it..or else it is like an infected cut, that festers because it is hidden from the light that will heal it.

  • andyyy

    Tell this wretched bunch of interfering culturally marxist shills to get lost. If they want to be useful, how about telling the Islamic world to stop massacring Christians.

  • andyyy

    Only vengeful hate filled morons wanted to see the previous Pope put before a trumped up tribunal from the club of hate – oh sorry the UN to use your parlance. As for international law – you have no idea what it means. before the drift to world government state soverereignty was paramount. So get lost.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    The Catholic Church is every single Faithful Catholic, past, present, and future. To blame the entirety of the Universal Church of God for the (horrendous) sins of some dozens of individuals is to engage in some pure and simple bigotry.

    And FYI the Irish have not been living in a Catholic State since the Anglican schism of Henry VIII.

  • TreenonPoet

    Read all about it! Catholic Church opposes Child Rights.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    Posting outright LIES is despicable.

  • Rotbart

    The response should be, “You go first.” That means the Holy See response can be in perpetuiy. The member sof the Commission re some of the worst violators of human rights. What hypocrites!

  • TreenonPoet

    I was suggesting a headline that could result if the Catholic Church announced its formal disagreement with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (as an example of the sort of consequences I was referring to). I thought that preceding the headline by “Read all about it!” would indicate this.

    But if you want to be literal, the Catholic Church (in its global hierarchy) does oppose the rights of children by its deliberate actions; for example regarding Articles 3, 4, 12, 19, and 29 of the Convention. The delay in reporting to the UN committee (so carefully played down by the CH staff reporter) is only one of a number of indicators that the Church has not been in a hurry to put things right (and cmom is not the only commenter here who seems to think it is OK to continue to do nothing for as long as others are abusing children too).

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    In reality, the Holy See is essentially the Diocese of Rome.

    It is absurd to claim that the Holy See should bear a diplomatic-level responsibility for poorly-substantiated claims made against the Catholic Church in entirely different territories.

    Furthermore — this request for “detailed information of every single case” is IN ITSELF a direct violation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on Human Rights, given that they both absolutely establish the right to personal dignity and privacy.

  • PaulF

    Beware of invitations to self incriminate.

    I thought the point of having the Vatican as a State is to make it independent of hostile secularist authorities. How has it managed to get into this bind?

  • polycarped

    All other issues aside (many of which may have validity vis a vis what the UN is, whose authority, etc), let’s get back to basics here because some of the comments are a bit wild, I think. The Holy See ratified the UNCRC and, as such, like all other states that have done so, committed itself to fulfilling its provisions and obliged itself to providing five yearly reports on progress. All other signatory states are in the same position. Like the USA, the Holy See did not have to ratify it. It chose to. Given that position, it seems like a good opportunity to report what needs to be reported (in doing so the Holy See can decide what should be reported and clarify the undoubtedly numerous errors in the UN CRC committee’s understanding of the ‘entity’ it is dealing with) and to do so without being defensive. Given the size and nature of the territory under discussion, I would have thought that the report might be quite brief! Played the right way, this could be used as an educational exercise by the HS to put a few things straight. It’s also worth being aware that non-state organisations can submit ‘alternatives reports’ to the committee commenting on the issues in question. Perhaps there is an organisation based in the HS that could, aided by some volunteers from this combox, put forward such a report if people feel so strongly?

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    The Holy See explicitly clarified that no notions incompatible with the rights of the child as they are defined in Catholic Doctrine were accepted in this act of ratification.

    Furthermore, the treaty itself is entirely non-coercitive, so that people dreaming that sanctions could be imposed on this or that state on the basis of its contents is living in Cloud Cuckoo Land.

  • polycarped

    I was not aware of what you say in your first point – even better then, as the HS can recall this in the response.

    You are quite right on the second point – something I was going to mention in my post. So, even less to be worried about!

    I’m not standing up for the UN here but equally I’m not condemning the UNCRC out of hand either. The more fuss that is made, the more ammunition enemies of the Church have to assume there is something to hide. Surely it’s best to capitalise on the situation and use it as an opportunity to teach and enlighten?

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    The purpose of the UNCRC is to improve child protection globally.

    The fact that some people choose to try and manipulate this purpose as a means of spreading hateful political propaganda does not destroy that essential reason for its existence.

  • polycarped

    The purpose of the UNCRC is actually much broader than child protection – but of course that’s a very prominent aspect of it. The primary purpose of the UNCRC is to encourage and hold signatory states accountable for upholding a wide range of rights of the children within their jurisdiction. Quite what the manipulators and the UNCRC Committee think this means in practical terms for the HS is yet to be understood I suppose but it seems they are a little confused, as other posters have noted.

    I agree completely with your second point – and I would hope that whoever within the HS is given the responsibility to lead the response (and that is a decision that should be carefully considered in my view) does so in a way that makes that very clear. I hope they also take the opportunity to highlight, once again, that, unlike the UNCRC and the vast majority of state signatories to it, the HS actively recognises, respects and defends the fundamental right of every child (i.e. the right to life) from the moment of conception and takes the opportunity to strongly criticise the UN for failing to do the same. Although the UNCRC notes that the definition of a ‘child’ is a person up to the age of 18, it does not of course define when that life begins – a gaping and of course very telling omission.

  • TreenonPoet

    The responsibilities of a state are not restricted by the boundary of its territory. It is true that foreign states bear some (not full) responsibility for the overt operations of the Catholic Church within those foreign territories, but not for covert operations. Yet such is the power of the Catholic Church that many states renege on their responsibilities regarding the overt operations.

    To take one example, what right did the British Government (who were well aware of Ratzinger’s culpability in clerical abuse cover-up) have to raid the Foreign Aid budget to help fund the 2010 papal visit? None. But the real culprit is the Catholic Church.

    Your suggestion that child abuse should not be reported in order to protect the privacy of the child is despicable.

  • vito

    Excellent. Time to clean up that place. They want to be part of the normal world – let’s keep them accountable.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    The responsibilities of a state are not restricted by the boundary of its territory. It is true that foreign states bear some (not full) responsibility for the overt operations of the Catholic Church within those foreign territories, but not for covert operations. Yet such is the power of the Catholic Church that many states renege on their responsibilities regarding the overt operations.

    To take one example, what right did the British Government (who were well aware of Ratzinger’s culpability in clerical abuse cover-up) have to raid the Foreign Aid budget to help fund the 2010 papal visit? None. But the real culprit is the Catholic Church.

    Your brain fantasies are becoming increasingly bizarre …

    overt operations ? covert operations ?

    Is this the production of some emergent paranoid syndrome, or are you just yet another run-of-the-mill conspiracy theorist ?

    “Ratzinger’s culpability in clerical abuse cover-up”

    This is slander, HH Benedict XVI / Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has in reality been extremely active towards proper punishments and penalties being imposed on child molesters and those who aid and abet them, even to the extent of ordering a full revision of the Church’s Canon Law to provide such proper actions, and of ordering that responsibility for such cases be taken away from each individual Bishop, several of whom have turned out to be GROSSLY incompetent and sometimes even complicit with these crimes, and back to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where it properly belongs.

    Your suggestion that child abuse should not be reported in order to protect the privacy of the child is despicable

    In reality, I have said NO SUCH THING.

    Where the Holy See is in possession of details concerning individual cases, it is exactly BECAUSE all of those cases have been reported.

    You completely FAIL to understand that where cover-ups have existed, failure to report these crimes to the Police was systematically accompanied by failure to report these sins to the Holy See.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    The primary purpose of the UNCRC is to encourage and hold signatory states accountable for upholding a wide range of rights of the children within their jurisdiction

    … via UNCRC-encouraged changes to each Nation’s Laws and Constitutional provisions and legal Philosophies.

    (I think we’re just quibbling at this stage)

  • Anne

    What about the UN’s policy on abortion and the numbers of babies massacred on a daily basis throughout the world. I suppose its okay to continue dumping babies in trash and incinerators.

  • polycarped

    “… via UNCRC-encouraged changes to each Nation’s Laws and Constitutional provisions and legal Philosophies.”

    Yes, which in many cases is a good thing, believe me. I say that based on over two decades of relevant work in a wide range of countries and as a traditional and faithful Catholic. Think, for example, of some of the terrible policies and practices related to the care of vulnerable/abandoned children that remain in place in many of the ex-Soviet republics following independence from the USSR – that’s just for a starter…

    (Agree!) :)