Reputation of church ‘placed above children’s best interests’
UN report accuses Catholic Church of failing to acknowledge extent of abuse committed
The UN watchdog for children’s rights said the Holy See should hand over its archives on sexual abuse so that culprits, as well as “those who concealed their crimes”, could be held accountable. Photograph: Tony Gentile/Reuters
The Holy See’s handling of the clerical sex abuse crisis that has rocked the Catholic Church for much of the last 20 years has come in for unprecedented criticism from the UN’s Geneva based Committee on the Rights of the Child.
In a report released today, following on a Vatican deposition in Geneva two weeks ago, the UN body says that the Church has failed to “acknowledge the extent of the crimes committed”.
Attempts to silence victims of abuse, the regular transferring of abuser priests from parish to parish and the “code of silence” imposed on clergy all form part of a corporate church culture which leads the committee to conclude:
“The Committee is particularly concerned 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, as observed by several national commissions of inquiry.”
The church’s code of silence has meant that those nuns and priests who dared to denounce cases of child sex abuse were regularly “ostracised, demoted and fired”. Worse still, the Holy See encouraged an atmosphere where the non-reporting of paedophile crime was seen as a positive value.
In that context, the report quotes the infamous case of Colombian Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, head of the Vatican’s Congregation For the Clergy, who in 2001 wrote a letter to French Bishop Pierre Pican praising him for not denouncing an abuser priest his diocese, a priest who was later given an 18 year jail sentence for the abuse of 11 boys.
Inevitably, the Irish state, via the Ryan, Murphy and Magdalene reports, has provided the largest bulk of evidence in the above-named “national commissions of inquiry”. In relation to the Magdalene Laundries, for example, the committee argues that the Holy See did not protect or ensure justice for girls “arbitrarily placed there by their families, State institutions and churches”.
Saying the girls were “forced to work in slavery like conditions” where they were “deprived of their identity, of education and often of food and essential medicines”, the report concludes:
“Although the four Catholic congregations concerned function under the authority of the Holy See, no action has been taken to investigate the conduct of the sisters who ran the laundries and to cooperate with law enforcement authorities in holding accountable those who were responsible for the abuse as well as all those who organised and knowingly profited from the girls’ unpaid work.”