Pope Francis’ Vatican to Be Grilled by U.N. on Child Sex Abuse

Officials representing the Holy See will for the first time face questioning by a U.N. committee on the Vatican's child-sex-abuse record

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Andrew Medichini / AP

Pope Francis at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Jan. 15, 2014

Pope Francis has won over many critics in his brief time as head of the Catholic Church by presenting a more humane and empathetic face of the Church. His calls for compassion for vulnerable and marginalized members of society have won praise from Catholics and non-Catholics alike, leading in part to his selection as TIME’s Person of the Year for 2013.

However, his biggest test may be yet to come: dealing with the Vatican’s infamous record of sexual-abuse cases against children and the alleged cover-ups protecting pedophile priests. The scandals suggest decades-long histories of abuse, spanning continents and implicating eminences high up in the church.

On Jan. 16, this will come to a head when a U.N. committee concludes its investigation into the Holy See’s compliance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Vatican officials will be subject to a daylong public grilling in Geneva. It’s the first time the Holy See will be called to answer, at length, for its record of tackling child sex abuse before an international body. Leading the church’s delegation of five will be Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative in Geneva, and Monsignor Charles Scicluna, its former chief sex-crimes prosecutor.

Katherine Gallagher, a senior attorney with the U.S.-based advocacy group Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), says: “While we may have seen a different tone for marginalized groups from Pope Francis, we have yet to see a change with the way the Vatican deals with sexual violence by members of the Catholic clergy.” The CCR has called for an investigation and prosecution of those allegedly responsible by the International Criminal Court, collecting more than 22,000 pages of supporting evidence, including testimonies from victims, police reports and findings of international commissions of inquiry and grand juries. It has also submitted evidence to the U.N. committee’s investigation, writing, “serious breaches of obligations under the Convention [on the Rights of the Child] continue under the new Pope” and “children continue to be at risk.”

Gallagher points to two recent developments as examples of the Vatican’s troubled record on the issue: its refusal in November to share with the U.N. details of its own investigations into cases of alleged sexual abuse of children and reports from Polish prosecutors in January that the Vatican had turned down an extradition request from Warsaw for Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, who is under investigation for alleged sex abuse, making him the highest-ranking Vatican official ever to be investigated on the issue.

Wesolowski was removed from his post as papal ambassador to the Dominican Republic in August and dismissed from office when allegations emerged that he had sexually abused young boys. The Vatican has since denied that there was such an extradition request, but have indicated that Wesolowski is facing a criminal investigation by the Vatican’s own criminal court — which John L. Allen Jr., senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, describes as “revolutionary” for the church.

Though Pope Francis has remained relatively quiet on sex-abuse cases, there have been several steps taken on the issue during his leadership. In April, shortly after becoming Pontiff, Francis directed the church’s enforcement arm, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to act more decisively on abuse cases. In the summer, the Holy See’s criminal code was updated to criminalize sexual violence against children, which in the previous law existed in a general form as a crime against “good customs.” And just before the close of last year, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, one of the eight cardinals advising the Pope, announced Francis’ decision to establish a commission on the sexual abuse of children by priests, focused on providing emotional and spiritual care for victims of abuse rather than playing any judicial function.

For some victims and survivors, these steps are not enough. “Pope Francis, as boss, is enabling sexual predators by failing to hold them accountable,” says Barbara Blaine, the founder and director of the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Blaine, who says her priest in Toledo, Ohio, abused her as a teenager between 1969 and 1974, criticizes the church’s emphasis on conducting its own investigations, arguing that historically it has failed to address the problems. “Many of us who were abused by an assistant pastor looked to the pastor to make things right, then the bishop, then the Vatican,” she says. “No one fixed the problem. What authority in the world can hold the Vatican accountable?”

Blaine says however that she and other survivors do hold out hope: “We have to have hope because of what is at stake. What’s at stake is more children being violated. I believe change is possible, with the reforms that Pope Francis is bringing about, why not?”

“The church is trying to change, but for some people it is taking too long,” acknowledges Danny Sullivan, who heads the U.K.-based National Catholic Safeguarding Commission, an independent body that works within the framework of the Catholic Church in England and Wales to police its approach to abuse cases and safeguarding work. Sullivan welcomes Francis’ decision to establish a commission on sexual-abuse cases, given the many areas he has to deal with, but accepts that from the victims’ perspective, “the jury is still out until they see that the Vatican has made significant changes.”

The Vatican turned down TIME’s request for comment on the upcoming hearing, but among the questions church officials will be expected to address in Geneva include how it is making sure that known abusive priests are kept from further contact with children. The U.N. committee, which is made up of independent experts, will make its final observations and recommendations on Feb. 5. While their recommendations are not binding, Gallagher hopes the process will encourage meaningful reform and make people “recognize that this is not a problem of the past.”

14 comments
JeanneMarron
JeanneMarron

Unfortunately, from what I recently learned, instances of sexual assault, pornographic photographing and abuse of minors and vulnerable individuals committed by Catholic religious orders of brothers, nuns, non-diocesan and/or visiting priests in the US (and perhaps elsewhere?) do not get reported to the Vatican’s CDF (Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith) in the same way the dioceses priests who are found credibly accused do get reported; some as we know only after much cover up is plowed through by brave victims or tenacious advocates/lawyers. Thus the “issue” re the “amount” or “degree” of abuse that occurred within Catholic institutions is grossly deflated. Given that the United Nations is investigating the issue through the CDF reports, the numbers going to the UN will be incredulously erroneous due to this fatal flaw in the system. The UN needs to hold the Vatican accountable for the compartmentalization and gross under-reporting of the actual crimes that took place and not rely on the CDF’s fictionalized version of a heinous truth. Keep in mind, the orders of brothers, nuns and non-diocesan priests are the ones who often operated and worked at the schools, orphanages and other Catholic institutions in which they had much more frequent access to youth than the diocesan priests did, thus likely drawing many more sociopaths to their ranks.

Similarly, accountability by perpetrators form these various Catholic religious orders is more arduous. The Bishops’ and Cardinals’ and Vatican’ “not one of ours” approach is just another blemish on the Catholic Church. For the most part, the dioceses’ treatment of those abused by such religious within its Diocese seems discriminatory here in the US as are the laws in NY, NJ and many other states. Your right to pursue civil action is determined by which state(s) you were assaulted in. How ridiculous! NJ’s Catholic Church and Bishops have gone so far as to protect predators by hiring the ultra-expensive lobbying firm, Princeton Public Affairs Group, to fight the extension of the Statute of Limitations on sexual abuse of minors. Truly moral Catholic leaders who cared for its members would be fighting for the extension of such statutes and would be asking their parishioners to join in that fight. Instead the NJ Catholic Church is spending those in the pews hard earned money on lobbying efforts that endanger the welfare of children and teens. The Pope, Cardinals, Bishops and all religious should be doing everything they can to eradicate sexual predators in the Church’s ranks and elsewhere and to assist those abused in the past to heal. Given that the UN and the public are not taking a broader look at the depth and breadth of the issue by excluding these additional religious representatives of the Catholic Church using their Godly connection to abuse others, it is unlikely the problem will ever be truly addressed.

neilc
neilc

Again with the outrageously inflammatory "pedophile" label.  While the abuse of power must not be covered up it's just incorrect for the overwhelming majority of incidents.  Pedophiles target prepubescent children, generally age 11 years or younger.  The data shows that the victims were generally post pubescent teenagers.

There are many more teachers involved in these same disgusting behaviors but since there is no "single-payer" for teachers the news doesn't focus on them. 





Lynnx
Lynnx

Watching and listening to the first U.N. proceedings of the Holy See made me nauseous. Sex abuse cover-ups for generations, pornography, pedophilia, ignoring extradition requests for prosecution, and then.....stealing babies for sale and human trafficking in Spain, Ireland and elsewhere.  Although this event is unprecedented in {Catholic Church} history, can we not skip proceedings that are "not binding" but bring the Vatican before the International Criminal Court for justice for "crimes of aggression"  and force them to try these perpetrators?                                                         This is NOT Christianity, and sadly not even remotely a sign that any of these men or women  are Christ followers. And though I don't advocate for millstone drowning or violence...Matthew's gospel was pretty clear about justice:

 But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea. Matt. 18:6.  

suzyroger7
suzyroger7

This is a decades old story but an ongoing media obsession. Less than .000001% of abuse occurs in the Catholic church but it represents 99% of the media's coverage.


Ever wonder why?

Go here to learn the truth about the media's jihad of exaggeration, bias and misinformation  about the Catholic church and sex abuse.

   http://www.themediareport.com/

Stop the bias!  Stop the lies!  Tell the truth!



filmrecords
filmrecords

Go after the rabbis while your at it. Equal opportunity!

FrankBurns1
FrankBurns1

If kids are considered "inviolable in spirit," wouldn't that imply that religious inculcation of minors, especially  the very young, is out of bounds?

FrankBurns1
FrankBurns1

Since they insist that the Vatican is separate and distinct from the church, I imagine that also means that no funds are ever passed upward to it from the lower ranks.

StephenShea
StephenShea

The Pope needs to do the right thing. And send this Archbishop back to the Dominican Republic, to face his crimes. He has been shielding this man. It's time to stop shielding pedophiles. And I was hoping he would be the one to set the example.

JudyBlock-Jones
JudyBlock-Jones

After almost a year from becoming pope, Francis is showing the world that he chooses to protect child predators and those who cover up their sex crimes, instead of protecting innocent children. He has yet to take any decisive action to hold bishops accountable for enabling and covering up sex crimes against kids today. Church officials still think they are above the law.
Tragically the sex abuse and cover up within the church hierarchy is still going on to this day. Cardinals and bishops are still not removing accused predator clergy, and they are still not reporting to law enforcement. Their so called “zero tolerance” policy is not being followed by the bishops who created it. They don’t have to, because there is no punishment to force the bishops to change their ways of protecting their image and the institution rather than protecting innocent kids. Until they are held accountable by outside forces, nothing will change and children are still be sexually abused within this archaic secret institution. It is becoming more clear that Pope Francis can not be counted on to remove and fire these criminal bishops.
Silence is not an option anymore, it only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others. Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511, SNAPJudy@gmail.com "SNAP" the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests,

CrossWinds
CrossWinds

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff.........


Matthew 3:12.........

12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

ClauLuke
ClauLuke

@suzyroger7  just because you claim that only .000001% of abuse occurs within the Catholic church, we are to IGNORE IT!?  One child hurt by any monster, even in the deepest part of the world should be enough for the rest of the world to ask for the monster's head on a silver plate. You are just a fanatic with no remorse or ethical basis beyond your believes and the individuals closer to you. SHAME ON YOU!!!

YuDumash
YuDumash

I never understood why a mohel (sp?) must suck the blood from a newly circumcised baby. Very odd practice and worse when a particular rabbi was spreading herpes!

1world2live
1world2live

@ClauLuke What you say is true but then are you going to spend all your time screaming about one child abused on the street for example and be quiet about the millions that are abused daily in school and other schools and institutions? This is a society-wide phenomenon, making it look as if the Catholic Church is the world's champion in this affair is plain wrong. A good majority of them are blown far out of proportion and yes, the Church has not always acted swiftly and decidedly in genuine cases, but so have all other institutions! It is also clear that most of the cases even referred to are over 30 years old apart from being only a small number in relation to its abundance in the wider society! Society and the Church have changed a lot in their address of these issues and presenting them as a presently ongoing phenomenon is just wicked. I do agree, the witch-hunt is today, but then the offences were decades ago and not everyone agrees as to how to handle them today. These things should be handled as a society-wide thing and not a particularly Catholic one.