SNAP & CCR file 2nd UN complaint vs. Vatican

For immediate release: Monday, April 14, 2014

Statement by Mary Caplan of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (917 439 4187, [email protected])

People are safest when power is checked. But roughly one billion people are involved in an institution in which power is basically unchecked. It's the Catholic Church. And its structure leaves their children vulnerable to those who would commit and conceal child sex crimes. 

That vulnerability is not just historic, it's current. Kids remain in harm's way in the church today.

And that unhealthy, rigid, secretive, hierarchical, virtually all-male structure is not changing. Despite hundreds of thousands of children being sexually violated by clergy, top Catholic officials have done and are doing virtually nothing to institute a series of “checks and balances” that would make innocent kids and vulnerable adults safer – by deterring cover ups, by exposing predators, or by punishing wrongdoers.

They are making promises and adopting policies and establishing protocols and issuing apologies, none of which matter because the real decision-makers in the church – the clergy – have all the power and continue to abuse it for selfish ends: power, prestige and promotions.

So that's why we are turning to secular authorities to do what religious figures refuse to do: hold Catholic officials responsible for the pledges they've made and the choices they make – reckless, callous and deceitful choices – to protect guilty adults over innocent children.

Vatican officials signed a treaty on the rights of the child. In February, they were held responsible – via a blistering United Nations report – for breaking that treaty.

We hope the UN's Committee on Torture will issue a similar report after they read the evidence and question Vatican officials in May in Geneva.

These United Nations panels have no subpoena power. They can't compel testimony. They can't arrest, charge, convict or imprison anyone.

They can investigate, however, and issue reports and use their “bully pulpits” to do what most other secular authorities are too small, under-funded or timid to do – call out Catholic officials for saying one thing and doing another, and for putting children in harm's way time and time and time again, not just in years past, but today as well. They can lay out recommendations that remind us of the enormous gulf between how Catholic officials deal with sexual violence and how they SHOULD deal with sexual violence.

And that's real progress. To have top officials of this powerful institution exposed as complicit in devastating sexual violence across the globe by an unimpeachable source is a huge step forward toward a safer church and world for kids.

Our report says that despite decades of scandal, there has never been “an effort to systemically address the culpability of higher-level church officials who have (covered-up and enabled) offenses.” That's an understatement. The Catholic hierarchy's “systemic” efforts have been to hide, not stop or uncover sexual violence by its staff towards youngsters.

Indeed, one of the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child was to share all archives so that both direct perpetrators “and all those who concealed their crimes and knowingly placed offenders in contact with children” can be held accountable.” We share that view.

The last time Vatican officials were questioned by a UN panel, they split hairs and made excuses, claiming to have jurisdiction only over the tiny Vatican city-state itself. We hope that doesn't happen again.

And the last time Vatican officials were questioned by a UN panel, church apologists attacked the motives of these dedicated, experienced and impartial panel members who serve without pay. We hope that doesn't happen again.

Let's hope that no matter how the Committee on Torture proceeds, Vatican officials can find it in their hearts to listen with open hearts to the expert advice of those who genuinely want to help stop the needless suffering of thousands.

On Friday, the Pope made what some call “his strongest remarks ever” about the church's on-going clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis, in which sexual violence against the vulnerable continues to be committed and concealed. But “remarks” protect no one. Only action protects kids. And we urge Catholics to ask themselves “What specific steps – proven, practical steps, has Francis taken that have exposed even one cleric who has committed or concealed child sex crimes?” There are none. Or ask “What has he done to disgorge current cover ups or discourage future cover ups?” The answer: nothing.

And pontiffs make “remarks” when and where they can do little else: on poverty, war, famine, and natural disasters. This crisis, however, is a man-made disaster. It's one where papal action is both possible and critical. So it's irresponsible for Francis to continue to talk about abuse but not effectively prevent abuse.

Finally, the United Nations isn't the only secular body that should be stepping up here. Local and national authorities – police, prosecutors, attorneys general, justice ministers and others – must find the courage and take the time to investigate, prosecute, convict or at least denounce those who are prolonging and perpetrating this devastating scandal.

Church officials are not “fixing” this crisis. As a Long Island grand jury concluded years ago, they are “incapable” of fixing it. And secular authorities should not even give them a chance to do so. It is first and foremost, the duty of governmental bodies and leaders to safeguard the most vulnerable citizens.

(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

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747,[email protected]), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, [email protected]), Joelle Casteix (949-322-7434, [email protected]), Megan Peterson (218-689-9049, [email protected])

Showing 8 comments

  • James LeBoeuf
    commented 2014-04-15 22:22:22 -0500
    Thank you SNAP, and all others who continue to tell the truth. If anyone needs an eye-witness to torture and murder by priests in a catholic institution, I am available; I was there many times during rape, torture and the murder/sacrifice of a baby which was removed from a pregnant nun during “demonic” rituals. It has been going on for centuries.
  • Larry Polte
    commented 2014-04-15 14:55:30 -0500
    Ms. Halter, I commend you on having a positive attitude and your hope for real change. When the final results are in, I pray you are correct in your beliefs and that I am very wrong. However, I would remind you of the famous native American phrase about “white man speaks with fork tongue” because that suits Francis perfectly. One day it’s “the media is unfairly picking on us” and the next time it’s asking for “forgiveness”. I can’t give him points for acknowledging what the whole world already knew. I realize it’s possible I have condemned the man to soon and perhaps the change you speak of is there and my anger blinds me to seeing it. So, I will patiently wait and refrain from any more judgments on Pope Francis until more evidence on his real agenda occurs.
  • Caroline Ryan
    commented 2014-04-15 13:58:51 -0500
    Ms. Halter, I agree that much is changing in the world in regards to human rights. But the Vatican must be not only “changed” but dismantled, as the only way to bring its many offenders to justice. Pope Francis (he is really only a figurehead — Benedict is still in charge) proclaimed last July that sex crimes against children are illegal, but he then declared that within the Vatican, REPORTING sex crimes perpetrated against children is also illegal. This sets the lowest sort of double-speak standard for the church universal — Catholic, Protestant and otherwise. Yes, there is change in the air. But understand that this pope is NOT actively moving toward bringing justice to those hundreds of thousands of victimized children around the world. Bergoglio himself engaged in child trafficking while in the Argentinian church. He is among those who we have yet to bring to justice for crimes against humanity. He is among those who must be removed from any place of influence.
  • Lani Halter
    commented 2014-04-14 23:00:10 -0500
    I humbly disagree with you, Mr. Polte. I think that although thus far, the so-called “change” in the catholic church, is primarily “words in the media”; I’m inclined to point out to you and any others who haven’t been paying any attention to this issue, that any sitting pope publically asking for “forgiveness for this evil” (of pedophile catholic priests, and the secrecy afforded them), asking for “forgiveness” from and by all catholics; is while still disengenuous with regards to intent, is publically admitting these egregious crimes are being committed throughout the global catholic church.
    Personally, I believe that with unrelenting perseverance of all the members of SNAP and those at the CCR already committed to and long fighting this battle, that at this juncture in history, the victims will finally prevail and the catholic church as it has come to be known by its actions, will have to change. I pray to God through Jesus Christ that this be so, and am devoutly committed to seeing this change effected in my lifetime and the lives of my child and grandchildren. The criminal sexual violence against children and disabled adults by the catholic church MUST BE AND WITH OUR COMBINED EFFORTS, WILL BE STOPPED. The time is, now.
  • Larry Polte
    commented 2014-04-14 22:17:42 -0500
    If you realistically examine everything that has happened let’s say in the past 50 years, the ONLY conclusion by any sane rational individual is that NOTHING has changed. Cover ups are still ongoing. Excuses are still made. The church has an adversarial approach towards victims. While the stance from the Vatican has never changed (actions not words) , the pressure from groups like SNAP and a few journalists has forced the Catholic church to acknowledge there is indeed a problem. So if you add it all up PRESSURE is the ONLY thing that will force words into action. Unfortunately, the only thing that would force action is empty pews on Sundays and facing child abuse is one subjects most Catholics don’t want to face……………
  • Lani Halter
    commented 2014-04-14 12:35:24 -0500
    While I am actually in the midst of reading: the Shadow Report Prepared for 52nd Session of the UN Committee Against Torture, in Connection with its Review of the Holy See that the CCR in conjunction with SNAP submitted to the UN and thankfully the CCR published to their website. (I wish that I could read faster! So far, I am only on page 23 of 123 of the online copy.) My earnest and heartfelt thanks, and encouragement to continue this “battle”, goes out to you and all the victims of sexual torture and intimidation by catholic clergy, laity and catholic employees, and in effect, (in my opinion), calculated INTIMIDATION by the pope, himself; with the the knowledge the we MUST OVERCOME.
  • Lani Halter
    commented 2014-04-14 12:11:17 -0500
    Thank you, to SNAP and the CCR. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
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