A United Nations human rights committee has made an unprecedented demand that the Vatican "immediately remove" all clergy accused of child abuse and turn them over to civil authorities.
In its response to the report
, the Vatican accused the U.N. of interfering with church teachings on the dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom.
The Holy See said it intends to submit the report to “thorough study and examination”, adding that it is committed to protecting children from abuse, "in line with the principles promoted by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and according to the moral and religious values offered by Catholic doctrine."
Responding to criticisms in the report on the Church's stance on homosexuality, abortion and contraception, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi also said the world body cannot ask the Church to change its "non-negotiable'' moral teachings.
The head of the Holy See's delegation to the United Nations in Geneva told Vatican Radio that non-governmental organizations which favor gay marriage probably influenced the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child to reinforce an "ideological line'' in the report.
The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child on Wednesday called on the Holy See to acknowledge sexual abuse of tens of thousands of children and hand over its archives on the subject, adding that “those who concealed their crimes”, could be held accountable.
The watchdog's exceptionally blunt paper
- the most far-reaching critique of the Church hierarchy by the world body - followed its public grilling of Vatican officials last month.
“The Holy See has consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the church and the protection of the perpetrators above children’s best interests," U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child Chairwoman Kirsten Sandberg said during a news conference in Geneva, Wednesday. " In its concluding observations, the Committee in this regard has highlighted the practice of offenders’ mobility. They were moved from parish to parish when things were discovered and this still places children in many countries at high risk of sexual abuse.”
Pope Francis in December created a commission to investigate all reported cases of such abuse.
At a public session last month, the Vatican said it had little jurisdiction to sanction pedophile priests, but conceded more needed to be done. The Vatican’s former sex crimes prosecutor Monsignor Charles Scicluna said the Holy See “gets it” and that certain things “need to be done differently.”
“Due to a code of silence imposed on all members of the clergy under penalty of excommunication, cases of child sexual abuse have hardly ever been reported to the law enforcement authorities in the countries where such crimes occurred,” the U.N. body said.
The Holy See denies allegations of a Vatican cover-up and says it has set clear guidelines to protect children from predator priests.
“For the victims, it would be really important if the Holy See would acknowledge what has been said here in the concerns and the magnitude of this and what has not been done in ... the past and what should be done in the future. I think that would really be of great help. That is what we know from the victims that we met in the course of this process,” Sandberg told reporters.
Some information for this report provided by Lisa Schlein in Geneva and Reuters.