A sternly worded report from the United Nations has severely criticized the Vatican for maintaining a ‘code of silence’ that permitted priests to engage in the ongoing sexual abuse of children without censure or consequence.

The Independent reports:

Following their interrogation of senior Holy See figures on 16 January, UN children’s rights experts have lambasted the church for allowing clerical abuse to go on unchecked for decades, for its continued refusal to admit the extent of the problem, and its failure to adopt adequate measures to prevent further crimes. The investigators estimate that “tens of thousands of children worldwide” have been sexually abused by clerics.

According to the report published by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, “well-known child sex abusers” were for years “being transferred from parish to parish in an attempt to cover up such crimes”. As a result of moving rather than reporting paedophiles, “… in many countries… dozens of child sex offenders are reported to still be in contact with children”.

Any remaining moral authority clinging to the walls of Vatican City was thoroughly and permanently shaken off by today’s report, which captures a level of cover up tantamount to collusion in the abuse of minors by church leaders.

“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,” said the panel, the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

As the New York Times states:

Far from cooperating with law enforcement authorities, the panel said in its report, church authorities, “including at the highest levels of the Holy See,” avoided and in some cases explicitly rejected cooperation with them. The Vatican imposed a code of silence on all clergy members, it said, and as a result, cases of abuse have hardly ever been reported to law enforcement authorities by the church.

In a written response from Rome, Vatican officials said they would review the findings but expressed regret at the authors’ “attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of the human person and in the exercise of religious freedom.” One struggles to comprehend how silencing abused children, while allowing the perpetrators of their abuse to carry on regardless, in any way upholds the dignity of the human person.

The panel said the Vatican should make it mandatory throughout the church for all cases of sexual abuse and exploitation to be reported to law enforcement authorities. It also recommended that a commission set up by Pope Francis in December should independently investigate all cases of abuse and the church hierarchy’s response to them.

Katherine Gallagher, a lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, said in a statement, “The international community is finally holding the Vatican accountable for its role in enabling and perpetuating sexual violence in the church.”

However, the report’s recommendations are not enforceable or binding, and the panel will review the Vatican again in 2017.  Which feels a little disconcerting, considering the scale and severity of the findings.

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About The Author

Kerry-anne Mendoza is a writer, blogger and activist. She is the author of the Scriptonite Daily blog which explores matters of current affairs, politics, economics and ideas. She is also a contributor to New Internationalist, openDemocracy, Trebuchet Magazine, the Occupy News Network and others. She is based in the UK, and left her career as a Management Consultant having held senior positions in banking, local government and the NHS to be part of the Occupy Movement. She has since worked as a writer and campaigner for social, economic and environmental justice.