Geneva- SNAP responds to new UN report blasting Vatican
For immediate release Friday, May 23, 2014
Statement by Miguel Hurtado of the UK/Spain, SNAP leader (+44 7787 638245, [email protected])
For the second time this year, an international panel of experts is harshly criticizing the Catholic hierarchy for endangering children. We are grateful that more secular authorities are finally stepping up to safeguard children from powerful Catholic officials who commit and conceal devastating and widespread sexual violence against children. We hope this trend continues.
Most significantly, the UN panels clearly finds numerous acts by Catholic officials, in cases of child sexual assault, to constitute torture and trigger the Vatican's duty to prevent, punish and remedy torture.
We are also grateful that the UN panel isn't buying what the Vatican is selling – the patently absurd and self-serving claim that top officials in this powerful global monarchy lack real power or responsibility to protect kids from predators and must rely only on the actions of thousands of individual bishops across the planet.
The committee writes “States bear international responsibility for the acts and omissions of their officials and others acting in an official capacity or acting on behalf of the state, in conjunction with the state, under its direction or control…extends to actions and omissions.. deployed on operations abroad.”
The committee says that...
- COMPLICITY and participation in torture is a criminal act
- statutes of limitations should NOT be applicable to crimes of torture
- the Vatican refused to provide data to the committee
- there is evidence that church officials resisted mandatory reporting to civil authorities
- there should be impartial and independent monitoring and investigations “with no hierarchical connection between investigators and the alleged perpetrators…bodies carry out investigation PROMPTLY, THOROUGHLY, and IMPARTIALLY”
- results of any church abuse investigations should be made public
- church officials reconsider the concordats they have with nations that protect clerics who have committed sexual violence - constituting torture and ill-treatment - and those who have information about such crimes, from investigation and prosecution civil authorities.
The UN panel calls on Vatican officials to “take effective measures to ensure that allegations are communicated to the proper civil authorities to facilitate their investigation and prosecution of alleged perpetrators.” In 2014, after decades of this astonishing sexual violence and cover up by church officials and persistent pledges of reform by church officials, it is heartbreaking to us –and should be infuriating to millions – that church officials must still be admonished to call police and prosecutors when abuse reports surface. A clear and simple moral and civic duty recognized by nearly every adult on earth – calling law enforcement to stop predators from assaulting children – continues to be something Catholic officials refuse to do in many, many, many instances. (The committee made clear that this is a legal duty, too.)
The UN panel also calls on Vatican officials to “apply sanctions,” including dismissal from clerical service,” to “any official that fails to … react properly to credible allegations of abuse.”
Likewise, it's tragic that outside experts must urge religious figures to take this obvious, simple step to stop and deter crimes and cover ups that have done and still do so much damage to innocent and trusting boys and girls and their devout families.
In understated language, the UN committee “regrets the absence of comprehensive and disaggregated data on complaints and investigations of cases” and urges Vatican officials to “compile statistical data” on both “complaints and investigations” and “on means of redress.”
How sad. Hundreds of thousands of children's lives have been shattered because Catholic officials ignore or conceal vicious crimes, yet top church staff claim they don't have or won't share real numbers on this crisis. How sad that an international panel of experts feels compelled to tell religious figures to start counting and sharing at least basic information about these horrific violations.
The panel urges Vatican officials to “prevent the transfer of clergy who have been credibly accused of abuse for the purposes of avoiding proper investigation and punishment of their crimes.” Again, this is common sense and common decency. Catholic officials will claim they no longer do this, but they in fact still do.
We share the committee's view that “redress includes restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and the right to truth, and guarantees of non-repetition.” It's extraordinarily sad that at this juncture, few victims ever receive honest assurances that their perpetrators will be kept away from children or anything even vaguely approaching the truth about the clerics who assaulted them or who enabled other clerics to assault them. Victims are very often misled by Catholic officials about the whereabouts and living conditions of predator priests and about their other offenses.
We are grateful that the UN panel cites the very troubling and illuminating cases of Fr. Joseph Jeyapaul and Archbishop Josef Wesolowski. We would stress, however (as the committee said) that these are two of perhaps hundreds of similar current cases. They are among the most prominent examples of recent or current wrongdoing by top church officials. But they are not aberrations.
The Committee was misguided to praise one meaningless pledge by Pope Francis on this crisis. Each of the last three popes has said nice things in public about protecting kids. None of them have taken effective action to do so. So to welcome yet another in a long series of papal pabulum about heinous sexual violence is wrong and hurtful. It leads to premature and dangerous complacency and does a disservice to children who are being assaulted by clergy right now and children who will be assaulted by clergy in the future.
Given the long history of broken promises by many Catholic officials on the crisis, it also misguided at best and harmful at worst for anyone to give any credence whatsoever to the latest in a long string of biased, untested church abuse panels. Dozens or hundreds of such church committees at local levels have produced only minimal progress. It's irresponsible for anyone to praise another panel that has yet to take even one tangible step that protects even one child or exposes even one predator or enabler.
Finally, we are deeply saddened that Pope Francis, like his predecessors, claims that he and other Catholic officials in Rome can do little to stop priests, nuns, bishops and seminarians from committing and concealing horrific sexual violence against kids.
It's terrible to do nothing about a child safety crisis. It's worse to pretend to be powerless about a child safety crisis, especially when such a claim directly contradicts clear evidence to the contrary.
What next? Other secular bodies – at every governmental level – must also step up, like these two United Nations panels have, to investigate and illuminate this on-going crisis. Where wrongdoing is not being stopped, it must at least be exposed. Centuries of unhealthy deference towards corrupt religious figures must end if kids are to be safer in the church.
And more victims, witnesses and whistleblowers must also step up. Suffering in silence seems safe, but it's not. It is unhealthy. Reporting known and suspected child sex crimes is best for children and adults.
(NOTE - The Committee set as May 23, 2015 the deadline for the Vatican to report back on the steps it has taken to implement the "recommendations related to the prevention of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, and on impunity.")
(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 15,000 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)
Miguel Hurtado (in Geneva) cell +44 7787 638245, [email protected]
Barbara Blaine (in Chicago) +1 312 399 4747 cell, +1 312 455 1499 office, [email protected]
David Clohessy (in Missouri) +1 314 645 5915 home, +1 314 566 9790 cell, [email protected]
Barbara Dorris (in Missouri) +1 314 503 0003 cell, [email protected]
There are also dozens of local SNAP volunteer leaders on the SNAP website who are local spokespersons for the group: SNAPnetwork.org. Also please check the SNAP website for details, media statements, etc. Also please check the website of the Center for Constitutional Rights.