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Vatican officials face UN on sex abuse

January 19th, 2014 - Comments Off

VATICAN CITY, Rome — A U.N. committee reportedly grilled a senior Vatican official, as well as others, about the Catholic Church’s handling of abusive priests on Thursday in Switzerland.

Reports say it’s the first time the Vatican has been forced to publicly answer accusations that it allowed the sex abuse of children by protecting such priests.

For several hours Thursday, the committee reportedly questioned a handful of Vatican officials — including Monsignor Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, and Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s former chief sex-crimes prosecutor.

“There is no excuse for any form of sexual violence or exploitation of children,” Tomasi said in his opening remarks.

“Such crimes can never be justified, whether committed in the home, in schools, in community and sports programs, in religious organizations and structures. This is the longstanding policy of the Holy See.”

Tomasi said the body would welcome any suggestions on promoting and respecting children’s rights from the panel, the U.N. Committee on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Committee member Sara Oviedo pressed Tomasi over what kind of sanctions are imposed on abusive priests and whether they are handed over to the justice systems of the countries where crimes are committed.

The Vatican officials were also asked on what is being done to prevent bishops from transferring problem priests to different parishes in order to cover up their abuses.

Monsignor Scicluna said he was there to say that “the Holy See ‘gets it’ ” with regard to the issue and that no one should stand in the way of the prosecution of abusive priests.

Scicluna said states “need to take action against citizens of the country who obstruct justice in such an egregious crime as sexual abuse of minors, whoever these people are.”

“It is not a policy of the Holy See to encourage cover-ups,” he said. “This goes against the truth. Only the truth will help us move on to a situation when we can start being … an example of best practice.”

This comes down to the Roman Catholic Church’s work on the ground, not just words, Scicluna said. He said that education of clergy and laypeople connected to the church is key, as is the enforcement of guidelines on child protection.

The  officials were also quizzed on transparency.  The panel urged them to do “very concrete things” to help those who have suffered abuse by clergy, and to give them “closure” so they can move forward.

Meanwhile, panel members said that what the Vatican officials expressed Thursday was a welcome change in attitudes and that they wanted to see the measures promised become a reality. Tomasi assured them that action on the issue of sex abuse was a priority.

“For the Holy See, the whole problem of the abuse of children is a wound that hurts the church as a community of faith, and it’s a suffering first of all within the community of faith,” he said.

“And therefore it becomes not just a legal but moral and human commitment to continue to support and defend the principles of the convention that are protecting the children in a very specific way.”

Mfrances is a staff writer for CatholicFavors.com where you can buy the finest in Swarovski sterling silver rosariesSwarovski 24KT gold over sterling silver rosariesCzech 24KT gold over sterling silver rosaries, and other religious gift ideas.

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