A report released by the UN Committee Against Torture on Friday said that Vatican officials had failed to comply with an international anti-torture treaty in a number of ways.
Among other things, it said the Holy See had failed to properly report charges of sexual abuse, allowed some suspected priests to move between dioceses instead of bringing them to justice, while at the same time not paying adequate compensation to victims.
It said any alleged abusers should face immediate suspension pending investigation to reduce the risk of further abuse, and that any suspected cases should be reported to local police forces. It also called for anyone found guilty of abuse to be sacked from the priesthood.
The report also asserted that the Vatican did exercise control over its clergy worldwide, not just over those located in Vatican City – something that the Holy See denies.
‘Part of the past’
In a statement issued in response to the report, the Vatican said that “moving clergy to evade discipline and failing to see that victims obtain adequate compensation” were “part of the past,” and that it would give the findings of the report “serious consideration.”
It also said the UN committee had recognized its “important efforts to prevent sexual abuse against minors and others,” and had not actually accused the Vatican of violating the anti-torture treaty.
The Committee’s deputy chairperson, Felice Gaer, though, saw this differently.
“When the committee addresses a problem and makes a recommendation, it sees the state as not meeting the requirements of the convention,” she said.
At a hearing earlier this month, Vatican officials said the Roman Catholic Church’s prosecuting arm, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, had dealt with 3,420 abuse cases since 2004, most of which stemmed from between the 1950s and 1980s. Of these, 848 priests were defrocked and 2,572 were handed lesser penalties.
These figures are just from cases handled directly by the Vatican, not those dealt with by local dioceses, meaning the actual number of sanctioned priests could be much higher.
Victims groups have welcomed the report.
“For too long, the Vatican has been able to deny and deflect attention from its role in enabling, perpetuating, and covering-up these serious crimes around the globe,” the head of the US-based Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests, Barbara Blaine, said.
pfd/jr (AFP, Reuters, AP)