UN panel hammers Vatican officials over sexual abuse cases, cover-ups
By End the Lie
A United Nations panel hit two high-ranking Vatican priests with a slew of tough questions on Thursday, making it the first time Vatican officials had to answer to the UN for the many incidents of sexual abuse and the ensuing cover-ups.
The Vatican delegates denied the allegations of a cover-up and said they set clear guidelines to protect children from predatory Roman Catholic priests, according to Reuters.
The members of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, however, indicated that they saw a trend of the Vatican attempting to hide the offenses.
“The best way to prevent abuses is to reveal old ones – openness instead of sweeping offenses under the carpet,” said Kirsten Sandberg, the chairwoman of the 18-member committee.
“It seems to date your procedures are not very transparent,” Sandberg said.
The committee’s primary human rights investigator, Sara Oviedo, questioned the “zero tolerance” policy of the Vatican.
“Then why were there efforts to cover up and obscure these types of cases?” she asked, according to The Daily Beast.
“If these events continue to be hidden and covered up, to what extent will children be affected?” asked Maria Rita Parisi, another committee member.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva, admitted that they failed to properly outline policies adhering to the global standards for the protection of children.
“Confronted with this reality, the Holy See has carefully delineated policies and procedures designed to help eliminate such abuse and to collaborate with respective State authorities to fight against this crime,” Tomasi said.
“The Holy See is also committed to listen carefully to victims of abuse and to address the impact such situations have on survivors of abuse and on their families,” he said.
Mary Caplan, of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said that the group was disappointed by the responses of the officials to the commission.
SNAP, which is now a 25-year-old group, has almost 20,000 members worldwide.
“These clerics said some nice things today in Geneva. But unfortunately, the encouraging public words today by Catholic officials differ radically from the actual and distressing private behavior of Catholic officials,” Caplan said in a statement to The Daily Beast.
Caplan said that the Vatican has one policy that is presented to the public and one that is actually carried out when media scrutiny is no longer possible.
“Before the cameras, the church hierarchy often denounces predators and thanks victims,” Caplan said. “But behind closed doors, the church hierarchy often protects predators and rebuffs victims.”
Ultimately, Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the former sex crimes prosecutor for the Vatican, said that they are not responsible for responding to abuses outside of the confines of the Vatican state, according to The Los Angeles Times.
“Priests are not functionaries of the Vatican,” Tomasi said. “Priests are citizens of their own states, and they fall under the jurisdiction of their own country.”
Barbara Blaine, head of SNAP, told reporters that the claim is less than satisfying.
“It seems disingenuous to claim that states are responsible for these crimes, when church officials have been obstructing justice,” Blaine said.
One case that the committee focused on was that of Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski.
Wesolowski is the former envoy to the Dominican Republic who was sent back to the Vatican in August 2013 after allegations of abusing young men surfaced.
“They didn’t answer whether he would be turned over [to civil authorities],” Blaine said.
Pam Spees, a lawyer with the U.S. Center for Constitutional Rights, agreed that the Vatican is still obligated even if the alleged crimes occurred outside of the Vatican state.
“There is a clear responsibility,” Spees said, according to the Times. “The committee is showing it understands that.”
The committee’s non-binding conclusions are due on Feb. 5. On Thursday, Pope Francis called the history of child abuse “the shame of the church.” He announced last month that the Vatican would form a commission in an effort to figure out how to better protect children from sexual abuse by priests, but the body will not discipline offenders.
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