UN demands removal of all known and suspected clergy child abusers
This morning, the United Nations ordered the Vatican to take an enormous step in bringing justice to the victims of the sex abuse scandal. In a statement, the Committee on the Rights of the Child demanded the Vatican to immediately remove of all Catholic clergy known or suspected to be child abusers, to hold them accountable for their actions, and to turn them over to civil authorities (page 10).
The New York Times reports that the panel accused the church of caring more for their reputation and public image than for the victims of the scandal. The committee stated that the Vatican “has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by, and the impunity of, the perpetrators." It is not a surprised that the panel has demanded such drastic measures to take place.
Some steps have been taken in the recent months to be transparent about the issue. Archdioceses around the United States have released documents regarding clergy sex abuse to the victims’ attorneys and the public. One of the most recent cases was the Archdiocese of Chicago which released nearly 6,000 pages of reports. (Listen to the interview that U.S. Catholic managing editor Scott Alessi contributed to on WBEZ.) Releasing these documents has not been enough to satisfy the victims and their families.
In response to the committee’s statement, the Vatican has released its own thoughts on the matter. “The Holy See does, however, regret to see in some points of the Concluding Observations an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom,” the Vatican stated. “The Holy See reiterates its commitment to defending and protecting the rights of the child, in line with the principles promoted by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and according to the moral and religious values offered by Catholic doctrine.”
Catholics have started to weigh in with their responses of the UN’s statement. Some believe it is unfair of the UN to demand this and have called it a “kangaroo court.” Others believe that it will begin to hold the bishops accountable for their actions and will start bringing justice to the victims.
It will be interesting to keep track of this developing story and see what Pope Francis has to say about the UN’s orders. Will he fully support removing all accused and the suspected and show that he truly cares more about the victims? Or will he become defensive as the Holy See did in their statement and say that the removal is an attempt to interfere with church teaching and religious freedom? It will be a real test of his willingness to protect the victims. His special commission of advisers on the sex abuse cases will no doubt have something to say.
Hopefully the order from the UN will be a step in the right direction and will force the Vatican to take some long-overdue actions to protect the victims.