Catholic World News

UN committee asks Vatican to order cooperation with civic officials on abuse accusations

May 23, 2014

A UN committee implementing the Convention against Torture (CAT) has issued a report demanding that the Vatican institute worldwide policies requiring Church leaders to cooperate with civic officials in preventing and prosecuting the sexual abuse of children.

The Vatican, acknowledging the balanced presentation of the report, promised that it "will take into serious consideration" the UN committee’s recommendations. An official statement released by the Holy See in response to the report noted that UN committee had recognized the steps already taken by Church leaders to protect children from abuse.

The CAT committee’s report, issued on May 23, took an approach markedly different from that of an earlier, highly polemical report issued by the UN committee on the rights of children in February. The Vatican noted with satisfaction that the report had found “that the Holy See has made many serious and substantial reforms on its procedures that further advance the principles and objectives of the CAT.” The report also acknowledged the “good faith efforts” by the Holy See to comply with the Convention against Torture.

The Vatican statement also observed that the CAT committee had confined its report to the subject matter, rather than challenging the teachings of the Catholic Church. Critics of the Church had urged the committee to rule that efforts to prevent legal abortion are a form of torture; the committee declined to take that step.

However, the committee did issue findings that Church authorities had failed to prevent the abuse of children, had allowed abusive priests to continue in active ministry, and had concealed evidence of abuse by clerics. The document issued May 23—which is an unedited preliminary version of the committee’s final report—called upon the Holy See to set standards that would require prompt action against abusers and cooperation with law-enforcement officials.

In testimony before the committee, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative at UN headquarters in Geneva, had said that critics of the Church were “fossilized in the past,” failing to appreciate the extent of reforms that were already in place. The UN committee only partially accepted that argument, insisting that the Vatican should “take effective measures to ensure that allegations received by its officials concerning violations of the Convention are communicated to the proper civil authorities to facilitate their investigation and prosecution of alleged perpetrators."

The UN committee also partially accepted the argument by the Vatican representative that the Holy See only exercises direct legal authority over residents of the Vatican city-state. The committee countered that the Vatican does have the authority to set worldwide standards to govern the policies of Catholic dioceses and religious orders.

Moreover, the UN report asked for assurance that the Vatican would prosecute accused abusers who are under the jurisdiction of the Holy See. Specifically, the report called for “a prompt and impartial investigation of Archbishop Wesolowski”—a reference to the Polish prelate, Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, who was recalled to the Vatican from his post as apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic after being accused of sexual abuse there.


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Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: John J Plick - May. 24, 2014 11:42 AM ET USA

    When is this bizarre mutilation of language, even of reason itself going to stop? This "Committee" is more than willing to distort words and meanings in order to cover the Catholic Church with an inappropriate charge(s)but WILL NOT look at the dismembered bodies of millions of aborted babies.

  • Posted by: bruno.cicconi7491 - May. 23, 2014 9:34 PM ET USA

    I expect the CAT will also go after every government in the world in which there is knowledge of abuse by members of the State.