U.N. Takes Vatican to Task for Priest Abuse and More

Last month, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child held a hearing for Vatican leaders to address child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy and the church hierarchy’s role in protecting perpetrators. Today, it issued a report urging the Vatican to take measures to prevent priest abuse from happening in the future.

The committee recommended that the Holy See immediately remove all clergy who are confirmed or suspected child abusers,  turn them into authorities and provide the U.N. with evidence about the abuse—which it has so far declined to do. The Vatican was also urged to invite outside experts and victims to participate in investigating clergy child abuse, the abuse of women in Magdalene laundries and the way these situations were handled by church authorities. Among several other recommendations by the committee, the Vatican was also told it should also pay full compensation to victims and families. The committee said that it was

“gravely concerned that the Holy See 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.”

In the U.S. alone between 1950 and 2010, 6,100 priests were accused of abuse, leading to an estimated 100,000 victims, according to Barbara Blaine, president of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP). Globally, thousands more have been accused. As shown in recently released documents of the Chicago archdiocese, priests were frequently protected from punishment by being transferred to another parish, where they could start abusing others.

The report didn’t stop at priest abuse: It also condemned Vatican discrimination against homosexuality, suggested that all gender stereotyping be removed from Catholic schools’ textbooks, said the church hierarchy should review its position against abortion as it related to putting the health and life of pregnant women at risk and suggested the Vatican support comprehensive sex education in schools.

Although the recommendations are a step forward, they are, unfortunately, non-binding.  The Vatican quickly called the report “distorted” and “unfair.”

Read much more about the Vatican’s role in clergy sexual abuse in the forthcoming issue of Ms. magazine. Join the Ms. community today, and don’t miss a word!

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