Geneva- Victims worry about one UN recommendation to Vatican
For immediate release Friday May 23, 2014
Statement by Joelle Casteix of Newport Beach CA, western regional director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (949 322 7434, firstname.lastname@example.org)
We are troubled by a recommendation by the UN Committee Against Torture that Catholic officials set up “independent” mechanisms “which victims of alleged violations of the Convention can confidentially report allegations of abuse.”
For the safety of kids, the secular justice system is where abuse reports should be made. Time and time again, we've seen the Catholic hierarchy claim to have “independent” processes and panels. They almost always turn out to be frauds.
It's better if Catholic officials start backing – not opposing – secular legal reforms that enable more child sex victims to protect kids, expose predators, seek justice and deter cover ups through time-tested and truly independent processes like the criminal and civil justice systems.
For far too long, Catholic officials have insisted on handling this horror “in-house.” For far too long, they manipulated victims, witnesses and whistleblowers into reporting to biased church officials instead of unbiased secular officials. For far too long, they have stopped victims from having their “day in court,” leaving victims only one option: to disclose their pain to church staffers who then often get to work destroying evidence, fabricating alibis, discrediting witnesses, threatening whistleblowers, intimidating other victims, and rubbing even more salt into already deep and still fresh wounds.
Much will be written about other findings by and recommendations from the Committee Against Torture. But we believe it's important to also look that this process. How Vatican officials behaved during it is instructive and disturbing.
Before the CAT even met, Vatican officials warned the Committee against asking any questions about the widespread sexual violence by clergy. Vatican apologists tried to smear the Committee with allegations of bias. Then Catholic officials tried to claim that they bear no responsibility for what church officials – who they promote and protect and move - do outside of the tiny Vatican City/State.
As they have repeatedly done before, the CAT held to the legal standard that sexual violence can amount to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. They researched this crisis and they rigorously questioned the Vatican about the facts of widespread clergy sexual violence around the world and Vatican practices like priest-shifting, cover-ups, refusals to cooperate with national authorities and the persistent - and deeply disturbing – on-going Vatican refusal to require that clergy report these heinous offenses to police and prosecutors and other governmental authorities.
The Committee clearly viewed the sexual violence in this context as squarely within its mandate, as forms of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The Committee clearly sees the Vatican’s responsibility for these offenses as extending beyond the confines of the Vatican city/state. The Committee also clearly expressed a number of serious and legitimate concerns about the continued irresponsible actions and inactions by Catholic officials.
Sill, at least one Vatican official now says that somehow the church hierarchy was not found in violation of the treaty defies all logic and is beyond comprehension – reminiscent of claims that the sun revolves around the earth.
The reporting procedure that the Vatican has just undergone should be clearly understood. It is different from individual cases that can be brought before the CAT (under Article 22 of the Convention). In those cases, the CAT can evaluate individual cases and make a targeted determination of how a nation is violating the treaty. Attorneys tell us that the Vatican has not accepted Article 22. So for now, there is no possibility to bring individual cases to the attention of the Committee.
What the Committee did do today is significant: it clearly asserted its authority over the widespread sexual violence and identified practices that are of serious concern for adhering to the Convention. And it has required the Vatican to answer to these concerns or show how it is fulfilling its obligations to prevent, punish and provide redress for torture in the form of sexual violence.
We applaud every victim, witness, whistleblower, advocate, attorney, journalist and concerned Catholic or citizen whose work to uncover cover ups has led to this encouraging and historic day. We are especially grateful to our dedicated allied at the Center for Constitutional Rights for their untiring efforts to help us safeguard children from the horror of sexual violence and degradation.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 18,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)