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
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders