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UN is critical of Vatican over abuse

14 February 2014


Kirsten Sandberg, chairperson of the UN human rights committee on the rights of the child, talks during a press conference at the UN headquarters in Geneva on 5 February

Kirsten Sandberg, chairperson of the UN human rights committee on the rights of the child, talks during a press conference at the UN headquart...

CHILD-protection groups in Ireland, including those within the Roman Catholic Church, have welcomed a UN report on the Vatican's handling of child sexual abuse by clerics, and the recommendations that it has made.

The UN report was critical of moves by the RC Church to protect its own reputation, and its clergy, from the revelation of decades of sexual abuse in Ireland and elsewhere. It also criticised the response of the Church to those whom it had harmed.

The report stated: "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 executive director of the survivor group One in Four, Maeve Lewis, said: "This vindicates absolutely what survivors of abuse have been saying over the past decade. The Vatican has . . . never admitted that its policies and regulations ensured that priests were protected at the expense of children's safety. This falsehood is now exposed."

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NB-SCCCI), under the leadership of a Presbyterian, Dr Ian Elliott, has in place procedures for all dioceses, and is seen as highly effective.

It welcomed the UN recommendations, including the abolition of corporal punishment, and the demand for an inquiry into, and compensation for the victims of Magdalene Laundries.

In a statement, the board said: "We are pleased that a significant number of observations and recommendations relating to child abuse in the Catholic Church are already in place, due to the work of the NB-SCCCI and the Church."

The RC Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, said that the Church's handling of child abuse by clerics had been inexcusable. He noted that, in the 1970s, 12 serial paedophiles had been acting in the diocese at the same time. Adoption files requested. Philomena Lee (right), who was forced to give up her son for adoption by nuns in the 1950s, and is the sub-ject of the Oscar-nominated film Philomena, met Pope Francis in Rome last week, and asked him to use his influence in persuading the Irish authorities to release the adoption files that they still hold.

She is also campaigning to have the adoption laws in Ireland reexamined.


Paul Vallely

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