Vatican says plan for transparency in sex abuse cases is forthcoming

Feb. 5, 2014 at 1:49 PM
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MADRID, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Improvement in the Catholic Church's handling of child sex abuse cases is forthcoming, a Vatican spokesman said Wednesday after a U.N. condemnation.

Speaking in Madrid at a national bishops' conference, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said a plan to improve the Church's transparency in dealing with sex abuse cases will be released soon.

His comments came after the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child denounced Vatican behavior in allegedly shielding clergy in decades of sexual abuse incidents. The committee urged the Vatican Wednesday to hand over its archives on sexual abuse to the United Nations so suspected abusers and "those who concealed their crimes" can face justice.

Lombardi said the Church's plan would be revealed "in the coming days or weeks," the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

While Lombardi offered few details, Pope Francis said in 2013 that dealing with sex abuse in the Church was crucial to maintaining its credibility. The pope announced in December a committee would be organized in the Vatican to offer advice on how the Church could protect children and help victims of sexual abuse by clergy.

The U.N. report faulted Church leaders for putting reputation ahead of children's interest by failing to acknowledge the prevalence of sex-abuse by priests. It said the Vatican "has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators."

The panel expressed particular concern that the Holy See, when dealing with allegations of abuse, "consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the church and the protection of the perpetrators above children's best interests," the New York Times reported.

The criticism was included in the concluding observations of the panel that looked into the Vatican's compliance with the Convention of the Rights of the Child during a hearing in December attended by senior Vatican officials, including Monsignor Charles Scicluna, who was the Vatican's chief prosecutor of sexual abuse until 2012.

It was the first time the Catholic Church was forced to answer questions at an international hearing dedicated to the issue of pedophile priests, Voice of America reported.

While recognizing the Vatican's commitment to upholding the "inviolable" dignity of children, the U.N. panel said priests who are known child abusers were shifted to different parishes, allowing them to remain in contact with children and continue their abuse, the Times said.

During last month's hearing in Geneva, Switzerland, Scicluna said "the Holy See acknowledges "that certain things need to be done differently" but argued prosecuting and punishing abusers rests with civil authorities.

The panel challenged that position and criticized the Vatican's lack of transparency in dealing with the issues, the Times said.

It also rejected the Vatican's position that it was responsible for implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child only within the Vatican. Because it ratified the convention, the Holy See was responsible to ensure its implementation through individuals and institutions under its authority, the U.N. panel said.

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