Vatican ‘kept code of silence’ on paedophile priests, claims UN report

Children’s rights experts have lambasted the church for allowing clerical abuse to go on unchecked for decades

Rome

The Vatican’s moral authority has been left in tatters by a United Nations report condemning the Catholic Church’s “code of silence” on paedophile priests, allowing known sex offenders to continue working with children to this day.

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”.

Previously, the Vatican has insisted it cannot be held responsible for the actions of bishops and priests around the globe, saying it is the responsibility of local law enforcement to police such abuse. However, by insisting on using internal disciplinary measures to tackle the problem, the church has “allowed the vast majority of abusers and almost all those who concealed child abuse to escape judicial proceedings”. The report adds: “Due to a code of silence imposed on all members of the clergy under penalty of ex-communication, cases of child abuse have hardly been reported to law enforcement agencies.” That code is still in place, according to the authors of the report; two months ago, the Holy See refused “to provide the committee with data on all cases of child abuse brought to its attention”.

Barbara Blaine of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (Snap) said the report should act as a “wake-up call” for the church: “For the safety of children, we hope every head of state on the planet reads this and acts on it.”

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, said: “If the Pope is serious about turning the page on this scandal, he should immediately dismiss any bishop who oversaw a diocese in which a priest who abused children was shielded from the civil authorities.”

But Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s permanent observer at the UN, said the report gave a “distorted picture”. He said it failed to take into account the Vatican’s making “a series of changes for the protection of children” and that efforts at reform were “fact, evidence, which cannot be distorted”.

The investigators agree the church has committed itself to fighting abuse, but say to combat the practice effectively, the Vatican must ensure that all its personnel  are “made aware of their reporting obligations” under local criminal law and that “these obligations prevail over canon law”.

Read more:

Catholic sex abuse: UN blasts Vatican for failing to protect children from paedophile priests

Vatican accused of lack of transparency over 384 priests defrocked for assaulting children

As the Vatican is confronted by the UN, we must remember that the best evidence in child abuse cases will come from victims themselves

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
News
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
Sport
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
News
The spider makes its break for freedom
VIDEO
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Payroll Officer - Part Time

£12047 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Part Time Payroll Officer required for t...

Recruitment Genius: Event Management and Marketing Admin Support

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Evening Administrator

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...

Recruitment Genius: Lettings Negotiator

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Central London based firm loo...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot