U.N. Asks Vatican Hard Questions on Widespread Sexual Violence Against Children
January 16, 2014, Geneva – Today, the Vatican was summoned before the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to report on its record in addressing widespread sexual violence within the Catholic Church. Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and their attorneys from the U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) were in attendance. This was the first time the Vatican had been called to account for its actions related to this issue before an international body. In February of last year, CCR and SNAP filed a report to the Committee, documenting what they describe as the depth and breadth of the violence, the policies and practices within the Church that have enabled and perpetuated it, and the rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child the Vatican has violated. The Vatican responded in December to a set of official questions posed by the committee, a month after the deadline, refusing to provide the data requested and asserting that it was only responsible for actions or crimes that occur within Vatican City. CCR and SNAP then filed a response to the Vatican’s report .
“The Vatican has consistently refused to accept responsibility for its role in perpetuating rape and sexual violence against children in the Church and further enabling it by protecting offending priests” said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Pam Spees. “So its performance at the United Nations this morning was not surprising. The Vatican attempted to relegate the issue to the past and claim it is a new era, that they now ‘get it,’ but they continue to refuse to turn over records for prosecution, punish higher-ups that covered up the crimes, or provide any real evidence that they are now putting the safety of children above the reputation of the Church. Nonetheless, today’s hearing is a milestone in calling for an end to these days of impunity. The international community is demanding answers, and that is the first step toward true accountability and, we hope, an end to the widespread violence against children.”
CCR and SNAP found the Vatican’s responses to the questions posed by the UN Committee unsatisfactory. The committee had requested concrete data and facts, which the Vatican refused to provide. According to CCR and SNAP, the Vatican has been capable of tracking cases of abuse when it has aggressively fought or blocked efforts by survivors to obtain compensation in civil actions.
Said SNAP President Barbara Blaine, “The new pope seems to be making encouraging gestures in a lot of areas, but he’s doing nothing to even begin to expose – much less reverse –decades of selfish church coverups that endanger kids and protect predators. It’s very disappointing and it’s yet another reason why those who see, suspect or suffer clergy sex crimes should contact secular authorities, not church figures.”
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 12,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers, as well as those who suffered institutional abuse or those hurt by scout leaders, coaches and teachers. Visit www.snapnetwork.org.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.