A United Nations committee dedicated to the rights of children is demanding answers from the Vatican regarding the sexual abuse scandal that has embarrassed and shamed the Catholic Church internationally.
Delegates sent to answer questions from UN child protection experts denied allegations that the Vatican engaged in a cover-up of abuse. The Vatican representatives told the experts and victims gathered that the church has set up clear guidelines to protect children from predator priests.
The Vatican angered victims and advocates last month when it refused to answer the UN committee’s questions in advance. During the inquiry, many experts and abuse survivors called for transparency of the church’s procedures for investigating and removing priests accused of abuse.
“The best way to prevent abuses is to reveal old ones – openness instead of sweeping offences under the carpet,” Kirsten Sandberg, chairwoman U.N. committee, told the Vatican delegation.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, head of the Vatican’s UN delegates, told the committee he was not in a position to be able to answer their questions on the spot but assured the group the church took seriously the committees questions posed and suggestions offered.
Barbara Blaine, president of the U.S.-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said the Vatican response fell far short of what victims wanted.
“What we want to see is the Vatican punish bishops who covered up sex crimes, and we want them to turn over information they have about crimes to police,” she said.
Miguel Hurtado, a Spanish man sexually molested by his parish priest, echoed Blaine’s disappointment at the Vatican’s statements after attending the day-long session.
“Transparency is a very powerful tool when you are doing the right thing,” Hurtado told Reuters. “When you have something to hide, you hide behind words and are not forthcoming with facts and details because facts and details are not on your side.”
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