UN demands Vatican take action on child abuse

A UN human rights committee has published a scathing report denouncing the Vatican for its failure to take action against paedophile priests.

A UN human rights committee has published a scathing report denouncing the Vatican for its failure to take action against paedophile priests.

Among its criticisms, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child denounces the “practice of offenders’ mobility”, whereby offending priests are transferred from parish to parish and sometimes to parishes in other countries.  

The report describes how the reporting of suspected child abuse has been hindered by a “code of silence” among priests, which has resulted in those breaking it being ostracised by colleagues.

It also calls for the sex abuse commission, established by Pope Francis in December, to carry out an independent investigation into all cases of child abuse committed by priests and to establish clear rules for reporting offences to the police.

And the report highlights the scandal of the Magdalene laundries in Ireland, which operated between 1922 and 1996, in which women and girls were forced to carry out unpaid manual labour in “slavery-like” conditions.

As well as criticising the Vatican for its failure to act on child abuse committed by clergy, the report also criticises the Church’s socially conservative stance on LGBT rights, contraception and abortion.

The findings will make difficult reading for Pope Francis, who has made an effort to project a more caring and liberal image since assuming the papacy last year.

The Church has responded by describing the report as “an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of the human person”. One Vatican official, speaking off the record, said the committee’s statements on abortion, contraception and LGBT rights were “heavily agenda-driven and smacking of acute political correctness”.

However if the Church does not implement real change, it may find itself becoming much smaller. Pope Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict, may have not been unhappy with such an outcome, but for Pope Francis, whose aim is for the Church to reach out to more people, this will represent a failure.

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