Geneva- Resounding 'win' for kids at the UN-what's next?
For immediate release: Friday, May 23, 2014
Statement by Mary Caplan of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (917 439 4187, [email protected])
Here is the bottom line in the new UN committee report which severely criticizes the Vatican.
Ever so gradually, brave victims and secular authorities are putting an end to centuries of impunity, immunity, and selfishness by Catholic officials in rampant and devastating cases of clergy sexual violence and cover ups.
An independent group of experts has concluded that the Vatican has not done its duty to prevent, punish and redress torture and ill treatment - because of how Catholic officials enable clergy sexual violence against kids and their refusal to stop and punish it.
As Reuters reports, the UN panel “rejected the Vatican's position that the Holy See has jurisdiction only in the tiny Vatican City State.” Pope Francis should be ashamed that his top aides made and still make this transparently self-serving claim.
(In a news conference today, Committee chair Claudio Grossman said that it is a “settled thing in international law” as “old as bread and butter” that “the violation of the convention is not exclusively related to things that happen in your own territory” but extends to actions under a country’s jurisdiction or “effective control.”)
And as the Associated Press reports “the panel's 10 independent experts. . .referred to rape and sexual violence, which clearly falls within the treaty's mandate” and “Vatican officials failed to report abuse charges properly, moved priests rather than discipline them. . .”
But in an odd attempt to spin or a shockingly wrong-headed reading of the UN report, the Vatican's Archbishop Silvano Tomasi denies this, claiming (according to the Wall Street Journal) that “the committee didn't find violations of the convention against torture.”
The New York Times reports that “Panel members bluntly contradicted that assertion.”
Tomasi's claim is also directly contradicted by Felice Gaer, the vice chair of the UN panel, who said in a news conference today (bit.ly/IMopFf ) “Legal scholars will tell you that when the committee addresses a problem and makes a recommendation it sees the State as not meeting the requirements of the convention. We gave 8 pages of conclusions and many of them are quite specific naming cases and naming other problems, in dealing with issues ranging from investigations, to redress to transfer and a very long paragraph 10 about the failure to prevent torture and ill-treatment. So I think you have your answer in front of you."
Finally, we are especially gratified that the UN panel stresses not just wrongdoing by those who perpetrate sexual violence but also those who enable sexual violence. The committee emphasized that any act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture is an offense.
The panel urges that church officials “react properly to credible allegations of abuse” and those who don't should be “subject(ed) to meaningful sanctions,” which virtually every bishop – and the last three popes – are completely refusing to do. Such sanctions should include, the panel says “dismissal from clerical service,” which again, virtually never happens.
Heinous and degrading child rape, mistreatment, assault and torture keeps happening in the church. Those who could stop it won't. And they aren't punished. It's reassuring to us that the committee shares our view that this is one reason child sexual violence and cover-ups continue.
The message to the Vatican is clear: Discipline your employees who ignore, hide and enable child sex crimes. Until that happens - not once or twice but many times – little or nothing will change in the church.
And the message to secular authorities is clear: Clergy sexual violence and cover ups continue. Until more police, prosecutors and governmental bodies act more aggressively, more lives will be devastated.
(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)