U.N. Tells the Vatican to 'Immediately Remove' Child Abusers

In an uncharacteristically harsh criticism of the Vatican, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a report slamming the Church for "not [acknowledging] the extent of the crimes committed." 

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In an uncharacteristically harsh criticism of the Vatican, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) issued a report slamming the Church for "not [acknowledging] the extent of the crimes committed," and demanded that the Vatican remove every member of the clergy who is known to or suspected of abusing children.

The UNCRC questioned Vatican officials over cases of child sexual abuse within the Church in a hearing last month, and released their conclusions today in the damning report. The members spelled out the Vatican's shortcomings:

The Committee is 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.

The Committee censured the Holy See for valuing its reputation over the well-being of children, sometimes transferring suspect priest from parish to parish to avoid dealing with the problem and permitting law enforcement to step in:

Due to a code of silence imposed on all members of the clergy under penalty of excommunication, cases of child sexual abuse have hardly ever been reported to the law enforcement authorities in the countries where such crimes occurred. 

According to the UNCRC, the risk to children has not been mitigated as "dozens of child sexual offenders are reported to be still in contact with children," and insisted that "those who concealed their crimes," should see justice. 

In an official statement, the Vatican rejected the report, but mostly because it also criticizes Catholic teaching on abortion and contraception.

Scathing as the report is, it does not require any action from the Vatican as U.N. reports are not binding and they have no enforcement power over the Church anyway. But the report was commissioned by Pope Francis himself, back in December, suggesting that he is committed to seeing the scandal-ridden system change. During the hearing the Committee criticized the Holy See for lack of transparency, accusing officials of "sweeping offenses under the carpet." The Vatican's former sex-crimes prosecutor Monsignor Charles Scicluna acknowledged at the time that "there are certain things that need to be done differently. I would talk about cover-up, for example, because this is a very important concern." In January, the Chicago Archdiocese agreed to hand over thousands of internal documents documenting sex abuse case to victims' lawyers, another in a series of Church disclosures that make openness seem more possible than in previous years.  
The report also challenged the Vatican's views on homosexuality, abortion and contraception. In an official statement, the Vatican rejected the report, but mostly on
those grounds, and added merely that it is committed to defending and protecting children.
It could be a long time before any real change is enacted. The U.N. asked the Vatican to address their concerns and follow up in 2017, but even that far-off deadline could be too soon for the Church. The Associated Press notes that the Church missed its last report "deadline" by 14 years.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.