Holy See responds to U.N. accusation that Vatican policies enabled sexual abuse

The Vatican responded Feb. 5 to a report by the United Nations released on the Rights of a Child, saying that the U.N. report “will be submitted to a thorough study and examination.”

The statement reproaches the U.N. for including “some points [that] attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching” and “reiterates its commitment to defending and protecting the rights of the child, in line with the principles promoted by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and according to the moral and religious values offered by Catholic doctrine.”

The U.N. report, released earlier today, strongly criticized the Vatican for policies regarding sexual abuse, urged the Vatican to release all case files on clergy sex abuse, and demanded the removal of all priests known or suspected of child abuse, according to Vatican Insider.

"The committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators," the report said.

The report contended that the Holy See "systematically placed preservation of the reputation of the church and the alleged offender over the protection of child victims." It accuses the Vatican of cover-ups, transferring offenders and failing to report appropriately to law enforcement.

The report also chided the Vatican for positions on homosexuality, contraception and abortion.

The accusations leveled in the report are not new to the Catholic Church. In fact, according to Catholic News Service, they seem somewhat dated, said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva, who testified with Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna of Malta before the U.N. committee Jan. 16.

“The negative aspect of the document they produced makes it seem that it was prepared before," said Archbishop Tomasi. "In fact, the document doesn't seem to have been updated to take into account what has been done in the past few years."

The most recent effort of the Church to protect young people from abuse is a papal commission for child protection announced Dec. 5, 2013. It is an extension of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s efforts to fight sexual abuse.

The Vatican also signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, as well as two “optional protocols” in 2001. It also followed procedure requirements by sending a written response to U.N. questions in November 2013.

While the U.N. recommendations are non-binding, they asked the Vatican to report back on its progress by 2017.

Jennifer Rey is the web editor of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing.