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Vatican responds to U.N.'s report on Church's handling of child sexual abuse

The Holy See is under fire from the U.N. for mishandling child sex abuse cases.
The Holy See is under fire from the U.N. for mishandling child sex abuse cases.
Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

On Wednesday Archbishop Silvano Tomasi responded to the U.N. report, which essentially reprimanded the Catholic Church for the irresponsible handling of priests accused of child sexual abuse according to Vatican News.

The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, which held a hearing in Geneva last month, issued its findings on Wednesday. The panel suggested the Vatican is more concerned with preventing a scandal than protecting the innocent as reported via The New York Times.

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 U.N. panel took issue with the replacement of accused child abusers/priests, and the Vatican’s argument that it is only accountable for following the Convention on the Rights of the Child within the vicinity of Rome. The group demanded the Catholic Church take a more authoritative role within the individual dioceses to protect the innocent and punish the abusers. The Vatican responded that they do not have the legal authority to prosecute child predators, which is the responsibility of local civil leadership.

The hearing marked the first incidence that the Vatican faced a public investigation from an international group. Also of criticism was the Holy See’s handling of abortion and contraception, but the committee praised Pope Francis’ “progressive” thinking.

Top Vatican officials attended the U.N. hearing on January 16, which included Archbishop Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, who responded to the harsh criticism today on Vatican Radio.

The report in the concluding recommendations that the committee of the Convention on the Right of the Child that were released today point out a rather negative approach to what the Holy See has been doing and has already achieved in the area of the protection of children.

Archbishop Tomasi continued to defend the Catholic Church's process to protect children, which is an ongoing effort and addressed the U.N. report's criticism of Vatican accountability.

The effort made was to give an objective picture of the remedies undertaken of the new steps that still are in the making, like the commission announced by the Holy Father for the protection of minors, and without any comparison with other states we simply say we recognize there has been a small percentage of Church personnel that have committed abuses, and these are the steps taken to prevent that such abuses be made again.

Maybe not all the observations in the facts have been adequately taken into account in the conclusions, so that for example the principle that the Holy See is accountable directly for the Vatican City State, but not for other countries where local jurisdiction is the state’s responsibility and should implement and punish whoever, including priests that may have abused children.

According to Archbishop Tomasi, the Holy See intends to “faithfully carry out all the elements of the Convention on the Rights of the Child” to protect minors from sexual abuse in the future.

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