The Catholic Church must be more transparent in dealing with child sexual abuse by its clergy and mete out fair punishments, a UN human rights panel said on Thursday, as a Vatican envoy said it has taken steps to eliminate such crimes in the future.
The Holy See had issued guidance to national churches, some of which had also drawn up their own guidelines, and Catholic non-governmental groups had set up educational programmes on sexual abuse, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi told the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
“The results of combined efforts taken by local churches and by the Holy See presents a framework that when properly applied will help eliminate the occurrence of child sexual abuse by clergy and other church personnel,” the Vatican’s Geneva envoy said.
More than 4,000 cases of sexual abuse of children had been reported to the Vatican in the past decade, US Cardinal Levada said in early 2012.
The UN committee’s vice-chairwoman, Sara De Jesus Oviedo Fierro, demanded that the Vatican provide more details on abuse cases and on the countermeasures as demanded previously by the UN body.
“How can you take a new approach?” she asked. “Why not make an effort to be more transparent?”
“The punishments that have been handed down never seem to reflect the magnitude or scope of offences,” she said.
The Holy See said in its written statement to the committee in December 2013 that it was not responsible for church institutions or their employees in other countries.
The Holy See also did not provide details of the alleged crimes and how it dealt with them, which had been requested by the 18 experts who make up the committee.
Pope says scandals church’s shame
“There are many scandals that I do not want to mention individually, but we all know about them,” Pope Francis said while celebrating morning mass in the Santa Marta chapel, according to a transcript supplied by Vatican Radio.
“The church’s shame! But did we feel shame for those scandals, for those setbacks of priests, bishops, lay people?” asked the pontiff, indicating that offenders may have had influential positions in the Church, but were removed from the grace of God.
“This is how the scandal came about: a decadence of the people of God, leading to weakness, to the corruption of the clergy,” Pope Francis said.