The United Nations has censured the Vatican’s handling of child sex abuse cases for the second time in three months.
The Catholic Church’s reputation has been seriously tarnished by worldwide revelations about pedophile priests, and by allegations that for decades its senior officials failed to punish them, or even covered up their crimes.
The UN Committee against Torture is “concerned by reports” that Catholic officials “resist the principle of mandatory reporting” of abuse allegations, it said in an eight-page report issued at its headquarters in Geneva.
As recently as March, the Conference of Italian Bishops told its members that they had a “moral duty” to help justice, but no legal obligation to report suspected cases of child abuse by clergy to police.
Victims’ groups have also pointed out that no bishop has ever faced Vatican punishment for shielding from prosecution a pedophile priest that was under his watch.
The Holy See was screened as a signatory, since 2002, of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrating Treatment.
In a public hearing earlier this month, the Vatican’s ambassador to UN offices in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, reported that 848 priests were defrocked and 2572 were demoted during 2004-2013 for sexual abuse offences.
UN experts mentioned cases of suspected pedophile priests who were transferred to other dioceses “where they remained in contact with minors and others who are vulnerable”, and “in some cases” continued to commit abuse.
They challenged the Holy See’s assertion that it could not be held responsible for the crimes committed by priests around the world, but only for those perpetrated within the confines of the Vatican City State, the smallest nation in the world.