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Originally published February 5, 2014 at 6:29 PM | Page modified February 6, 2014 at 3:17 PM

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U.N. panel to Vatican: Turn in child abusers

The panel also urged the Vatican to review the church’s doctrine on abortion, saying its position forbidding abortion in any circumstance puts girls’ health at risk and to revise its stance on homosexuality, saying its condemnation had led to violence against children.


McClatchy foreign staff

Key recommendations

Here are some of the 67 recommendations made by the 18-member U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Amend church law: The Vatican should bring its Canon Law in line with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, “in particular those (laws) relating to children’s rights to be protected against discrimination, violence and all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.” This includes any obligation for victims of crimes or those aware of them to remain silent.

Put children before the church:

The panel said that “in dealing with allegations of child-sexual 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.” It said church officials had in many cases blamed the victims or their families, sought to discredit and in some cases humiliated them.

Stop impeding investigations: The panel urged the Vatican to stop the transfer of abusers and suspected abusers.

Remove perpetrators: It called on the Vatican to “immediately remove all known and suspected child-sexual abusers from assignment and refer the matter to the relevant law-enforcement authorities for investigation and prosecution purposes.”

The Associated Press

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GENEVA — An independent United Nations panel on children’s rights accused the Roman Catholic Church on Wednesday of shielding priests who have sexually abused tens of thousands of children worldwide and called on the Vatican to dismiss the perpetrators and refer them to civil authorities for prosecution.

The panel also urged the Vatican to review the church’s doctrine on abortion, saying its position forbidding abortion in any circumstance “places obvious risks on the life and health of pregnant girls,” and to revise its stance on homosexuality, saying its condemnation of same-sex relationships had led to harassment and violence against children.

The 18-member panel, which is based in Geneva and made up of independent child-rights experts from around the world, convened last month to study the Vatican’s adherence to the U.N.’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international accord the Vatican had signed, and the committee’s condemnation of the church’s actions on sexual abuse by clergy members had been widely expected.

But the panel’s decision to delve into other issues of church doctrine and their impact on children marked a rare intrusion into what the church believes are matters of religion, ungoverned by whatever international agreements it may have acceded to.

In a statement, the Vatican said some points of the panel’s report were “an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of the human person and on the exercise of religious freedom.”

The statement added: “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.”

Including the Holy See, 193 countries have signed the convention, which grants jurisdiction to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child to fault member states for not meeting their obligations and to recommend steps to bring them into compliance.

But it was unclear what the panel, which is chaired by Norwegian law professor Kirsten Sandberg, can do should the Vatican not follow its recommendations. It directed the Vatican to submit a report on its progress by September 2017.

The panel accused the church of covering up incidents of child abuse and instructed it to “immediately remove all known and suspected child-sexual abusers from assignment and refer the matter to the relevant law-enforcement authorities for investigation and prosecution purposes.”

The panel also faulted the Vatican for dealing with child-sex abuse through confidential proceedings, “providing for disciplinary measures which have allowed the vast majority of abusers and almost all those who concealed child-sex abuse to escape judicial proceedings in states where abuses were committed.”

The panel said it hoped that a Vatican commission Pope Francis created in December “will investigate independently all cases of child-sex abuse, as well as the conduct of the Catholic hierarchy dealing with them,” and it instructed the Vatican to “ensure a transparent sharing of all archives which can be used to hold abusers accountable.”

The Vatican has yet to sanction any bishop for having covered up for an abusive priest, even though more than a decade has passed since the scandal exploded in the U.S. and countless law-enforcement investigations around the world made it clear the role bishops played.

The Vatican said it was studying the report. But there seems no chance that it would seriously reconsider its position on abortion or homosexuality. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, who led a Vatican delegation that appeared at a hearing the panel held last month, called the church’s moral teachings “nonnegotiable” in comments to Vatican Radio in Rome.

Sandberg defended the panel’s discussion of church teachings on homosexuality and said the comments on abortion and contraception had to be viewed in the context of the church’s impact on children.

“Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is something that we have raised with many states,” she said. “This is nothing special. We are not going outside the scope of the convention.”

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.



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