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UN Rebukes Pope Francis on Child Sex Abuse – Again

A letter sent to the Vatican in April was published on the website of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on June 21. UN human rights experts expressed “utmost concern” about “the apparent pervasiveness of child sexual abuse cases” in the Catholic Church.

This was the third time during his pontificate that UN representatives made clear to Pope Francis the ways he has refused to protect our children and told him what measures needed to be taken.

UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

A UN Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a 15-page report on February 5, 2014. The Holy See had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990. It was the first time a pope and his men had been called to account for their actions and omissions on protecting our children by an international body. The subject of the report was the papal government’s failure to adequately address its “systematic” responsibility for worldwide child sex abuse.

The Committee stated it is “gravely concerned” that the pope and his men

  • Have not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed
  • Have not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse or to protect children,
  • But rather have adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by, and the impunity of, the perpetrators.

The Committee stated it was “particularly concerned” that in dealing with allegations of child sex abuse, “the Holy See has consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the Church and the protection of the perpetrators above children’s best interests, as observed by several national commissions of inquiry.”

They stated the pope and his men should

  • Establish “clear rules, mechanisms and procedures” for the mandatory reporting of all suspected cases of abuse to civil law enforcement authorities
  • Open all archives and records concerning past cases so that they can be used to hold the abusers – and those who may have sought to protect them – accountable
  • Ensure that the papal Commission created in December 2013 will investigate independently all cases of child sexual abuse as well as the conduct of the Catholic hierarchy in dealing with them. The outcome of this investigation should be made public and serve to prevent the recurrence of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.
  • Promote the reform of statute of limitations in countries where they impede victims of child sexual abuse from seeking justice and redress.

Pope Francis responded on March 5, 2014, in an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, “The statistics on the phenomenon of violence against children are shocking, but they also show clearly that the great majority of the abuses come from the family environment and from people who are close. The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that moved with transparency and responsibility. No one else did as much. And yet, the Church is the only one being attacked.”  

UN Committee Against Torture

On May 23, 2014, the UN Committee Against Torture found that the widespread sexual violence within the Catholic Church amounted to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment prohibited by the United Nations Convention Against Torture. The Holy See ratified the Convention in June 2002.  

The Center for Constitutional Rights, which works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation, summarized the Committee’s report.

The Committee expressed serious concerns about the Catholic Church’s failure to prevent and punish rape and sexual violence by

  • Not reporting perpetrators to civil authorities for investigation and prosecution
  • Failing to properly monitor known perpetrators
  • Refusing to cooperate with national authorities
  • Not holding accountable the bishops and cardinals who participated in cover-ups and enabled the crimes. 

The report also noted the Vatican’s failures to meet its obligations under the Convention to provide redress, including financial compensation, rehabilitative support, and a guarantee that the crimes will not be repeated, to their victims. 

Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Staff Attorney Pam Spees said, “This is an important recognition of the gravity of these offenses that have been minimized by the Church, places responsibility where it belongs – with the hierarchy in the Church, not the victims – and could help open new avenues for redress.”

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

In the letter sent to the Vatican in April published on June 21, 2021, UN human rights experts urged the pope and his men to stop

  • The systematic covering up
  •  Obstructing the accountability of alleged abusers
  • Undermining legislative efforts to prosecute child sex offenders in national jurisdictions
  • Lobbying to preserve the statute of limitations which prevents victims who reach adulthood – when they are more able to report the harm they have suffered in court – from reporting these crimes.

They insisted that the pope and his men “cooperate fully with the civil judicial and law enforcement authorities of the countries concerned.”

The human rights experts noted “that these violations, and their cover-up, have allegedly been committed for decades in a large number of countries around the world.”

“WHAT SHOULD I DO”?!!

After receiving the letter, Pope Francis said on June 10 that “the whole Church is in crisis because of the abuse issue,”as reported in the National Catholic Register. The only path is “to assume the crisis, personally and communally. Therefore, in my opinion, every bishop of the Church must assume it and ask himself what should I do in the face of this catastrophe?” he said

The pope added that what he and his men should do is apologize and “have courage.”

Pope Francis has every confidence that he never has to pay attention to the UN and take the actions required to protect our children against torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment because the mainstream U.S. media still portrays him as the world’s leading “moral authority.”

Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America.

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