The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child says tens of thousands of children worldwide had been abused systemically for years within the Catholic Church, and little has been done to redress the wrong doings.
The report accuses the Catholic Church of covering up the crimes by transferring abusers to different parishes, which it says facilitated the continuation of abuse.
It criticises the Church for dealing with accusations behind closed doors, allowing the vast majority of abusers to escape judicial proceedings.
Victims of clergy abuse advocate, Wayne Chamley of Broken Rites, says the church still doesn’t realise that the era of policing itself has finished.
“They don’t seem to realise that those days are over and what’s been going on around the world in things like the royal commision in Ireland, and the royal commission in Australia the Victorian inquiry etc, they’re being required to come to a process of scrutiny that they can’t control and they still don’t have the mindset that the days of self examination are over. It’s just not acceptable to the public and it’s not acceptable to the government.”
Listen: Aussie support groups back UN report blasting Vatican on sex abuse, Abby DInham reports
But Mr Chamley says immediate changes to the way the church handles matters is unlikely as the current group of Archbishops is extremely conservative.
And he says the process of making amendments to canon law is long and difficult.
Mr Chamley says state and federal governments should impose sanctions on the church as service providers – in the hospital, school, and welfare sectors – to force it to take real action on the issue of child abuse.
“There’s an opportunity I think for sovereign governments to step in and say if you don’t make changes as the UN expects you to make changes we will start to make some changes in the way we deal with you as a service provider so we will maybe not be prepared to accept you to run any businesses and services on our behalf.”
Call for global action
Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) has called for action to be taken globally, like Australia’s own Royal Commission, to ensure institutional transparency and accountability when it comes to dealing with child sexual abuse.
“It is time for action, accountability, justice and compensation for people whose lives have been decimated,” said Dr Cathy Kezelman, President of ASCA.
“The Vatican’s priority must be with ensuring the safety of children and upholding the lives of survivors and their families. Enough complication, cover-ups and moving perpetrators around so more children are harmed. The lack of hierarchical accountability is and has been substantial; no one should be above the law.
“It is indeed a question of facts and evidence as Tomasi has stated but they have been not distorted. It is the ongoing attempts to minimise, dismiss, deny and perpetuate secrecy and internal processes that has created a global scourge. The time for real change is now.”
Vatican slammed over ‘code of silence’
The Vatican has been told to immediately stand down all clergy within the Catholic church who have been suspected of involvement in child sexual abuse.
The chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Kirsten Sandberg, says the Vatican has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed by Catholic clergy, and has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children.
“Another matter was the code of silence that was imposed by the church on children and the fact that reporting to national law enforcement authorities has never been made compulsor,” Kirsten Sandberg says.
“We think that it’s a horrible thing that’s been kept silent both by the Holy See itself and also in the different local parishes.”
Ms Sandberg says the so-called “code of silence” imposed on clergy under threat of excommunication, meant that cases were hardly ever reported to national law enforcement authorities.
And that those in the Church who dared to speak out were ostracised, demoted or fired, while some victims were gagged with confidentiality clauses linked to compensation deals.
“They strongly said that their attitudes have changed over the last few years. Let us hope that this is a new beginning for a more open attitude and more co-operation and removing this condition of silence.”
The report followed a landmark hearing last month during which members of the committee – made up of 18 independent human rights experts from around the globe – grilled senior churchmen and repeatedly questioned the Vatican’s resolve.
Like other signatories of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Vatican agreed to be scrutinised by the panel.