News / Europe

UN Committee on Torture Grills Vatican on Sexual Abuse

Reuters
A U.N. committee on torture grilled the Vatican on the Catholic Church's child sexual abuse crisis on Monday, urging a permanent investigation system to end a “climate of impunity” prevailing for decades.
 
In a two-hour hearing in Geneva, the Committee Against Torture launched a barrage of questions to the Vatican delegation, asking about past policy decisions, the juridical distinction between the Holy See and Vatican City, and information on specific cases.
 
The Vatican, which will issue its formal answers on Tuesday, said the Church has been “doing its own house cleaning” for 10 years, was determined to protect children and that measures put in place have led to a decline in cases of sexual abuse of children by priests.
 
George Tugushi, a committee member from Georgia, said a recently formed international commission advising Pope Francis on how to deal with sexual abuse, was a very positive step but  not enough.
 
“The commission may need help to ensure all cases are reported properly and begin to change the climate of impunity but it cannot be considered in our opinion as a substitute for a functioning investigation system,” he told the Vatican delegation headed by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi.
 
Another committee member, Satyabhoosun Gupt Domah of Mauritius, asked if the Holy See was taking steps to eliminate the “chemistry that creates the conditions” for sexual abuse of children by priests.
 
The Holy See's position is its adherence to the U.N. Convention Against Torture applies only to the territory of Vatican City. Tomasi said while the Holy See can be a moral force, the “agent of justice” for crimes committed by Catholics was the local state where the crime was committed.
 
“It should be stressed, particularly in light of much confusion, that the Holy See has no jurisdiction ... over every member of the Catholic Church,” he said in opening remarks.
 
Splitting hairs
 
Barbara Blaine of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) accused the Vatican of ducking responsibility. “They are splitting hairs when they should be embracing the victims and stopping the sexual violence,” she said.
 
The committee's chief rapporteur, Felice Gaer of the United States, told the Vatican delegation that its position “seems to reflect an intention for a significant portion of the actions and omissions of Holy See officials be excluded from consideration by this committee, and this troubles us.”
 
Gaer and Tugushi presented dozens of questions to the delegation, asking them to respond to reports presented to the committee by non-government organizations.
 
“We have received numerous allegations of intimidation of witnesses and shifting of finances to avoid payment (of compensation),” she said.
 
Church groups defended the Catholic Church's efforts to stem abuse and criticized committee members who said the Church's opposition to abortion had harmed women.
 
“Attacking the Church's moral and religious beliefs violates the religious liberty of the Church, a human right which the United Nations affirms,” said Ashley McGuire of Catholic Voices.
 
“Over the last decade, the Church has put into place reforms and protocols so strong that they are now being modeled by other institutions, like public schools ...,” she said.
 
Last February, a U.N. committee on the rights of the child  accused the Vatican of systematically turning a blind eye to decades of abuse and attempting to cover up sex crimes. The Vatican called the report unfair and ideologically slanted.

You May Like

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid