Vatican - Date set for Catholic officials to appear in Geneva

They will face questions from United Nations panel

But church hierarchy has missed Nov. 1st deadline

They were to answer questions about abuse crisis

For immediate release: Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013

Contact: Barbara Blaine, SNAP President, +1 312 399 4747, [email protected]

A date has been set for Vatican officials to appear before a United Nations panel in Geneva and answer questions about clergy sex crimes and cover ups.

On January 16 top Catholic officials are to meet for several hours with members of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The meeting will be streamed live on line.

The date was announced by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and can be found here:

A support group for clergy sex abuse victims, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, wonders whether the Vatican will send anyone to the January meeting.  SNAP is also blasting Vatican staff for missing a deadline to answer questions in writing from the panel about clergy sex crimes and cover ups.

“High ranking Catholic monarchs often break promises and rules,” said SNAP Executive Director David Clohessy of St Louis. “These monarchs are very accustomed to being treated like royalty and very unaccustomed to facing tough questions in public about this devastating and continuing crisis. So who knows whether any of them will show up in January?”

Last July, the UN committee sent Vatican authorities a list of about 20 questions, with a November 1 deadline. The questions were designed to help the committee determine whether the church is honoring the 23 year old Convention on the Rights of the Child.

But Catholic figures have so far ignored the committee’s request. Responses from three other countries that were given the same deadline as the Vatican have been posted on the UN committee's website. No response from the Vatican has been posted.

“Once again, top Catholic officials thumb their noses at secular authorities and hide information about on-going crimes and cover ups,” said SNAP spokesperson Miguel Hurtado of London. “Some hoped the church hierarchy might be more open about clergy sex crimes and cover ups under Pope Francis. But that’s obviously not happening.”

“We believe that the high-ranking Catholic staff is violating the Rights of the Child treaty,” said Mary Caplan of New York, SNAP representative to the UN. “They do this because they can. They get by with it because few secular authorities have the courage and strength to hold the Catholic hierarchy accountable for repeatedly reckless, callous, deceitful and self-serving actions regarding vulnerable kids, powerful prelates, and child molesting clerics.”

Last February, SNAP and the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed a 30 page report with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) that is highly critical of the Vatican’s past and current handling of clergy sex crimes and cover ups. It’s the first time SNAP is making a formal appeal to the UN for help with the crisis. (The CRC oversees compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted in 1990.)

And last June, two US SNAP leaders traveled to Geneva and spent three hours meeting with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, chaired by Kirsten Sandberg of Norway.

In January, Vatican staffers are expected to appear before the 18 member committee to answer questions about their failure to file other required reports in a timely fashion and about clergy sex crimes and cover ups.

This isn’t the first time Vatican officials have missed a UN deadline. In 1997, the Vatican’s second report to the CRC was due. It was finally submitted about 14 years late. (And the Vatican is ten years late in filing its first required report under a similar agreement called the “Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, which was due in 2003.)

In 1994, in its first report to the CRC, the Vatican made no mention whatsoever of the issue of clergy sex abuse though even then, top church officials had extensive knowledge about pedophile priests and complicit bishops around the world.

SNAP leaders hope Pope Francis will change course and reply to the pending UN committee’s requests.

“All the UN wants right now is information. And if the Vatican won’t share information, it’s hard to believe they’ll actually begin to reverse centuries of reckless, callous and deceitful behavior in dealing with and hiding sexual violence by Catholic clerics,” said SNAP President Barbara Blaine of Chicago.

“In a number of small, symbolic but widely-touted ways, Pope Francis is showing a willingness to try a few different things,” said SNAP Outreach Director Barbara Dorris of St Louis. “We hope he’ll do something – anything – to be more honest and responsible about the safety of kids, even though we haven’t seen any hopeful signs in this regard so far.”

SNAP has, however, been encouraged by the UN panel’s actions thus far.

“Every time anyone tells Catholic officials 'You will be held to the same standard as other institutions,' that's progress," said Blaine "With or without Vatican cooperation, we suspect this committee will see and point out how the church hierarchy continues to tolerate and enable sexual violence."

SNAP and CCR contend that the Vatican has violated requirements to:  1) “cooperation with criminal investigations and extradition proceedings” (and has actually done the opposite), 2) “adequately provide for the protection of the rights of child victims and witnesses” 3) “provide for rehabilitation, compensation and prevention measures to protect children from these offences,” and 4) “genuinely encourage and participate in international cooperation in the areas of prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution and punishment of those responsible” particularly when the offenders are members of its own clergy.

A list of the committee’s members is here:

Attorneys Pam Spees and Katherine Gallagher of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York wrote the February report to the UN and can be reached at (+1 212 614 6431, [email protected], [email protected]. The media contacts for CCR are Jen Nessel (+1 212 614 6449, [email protected]) and David Lerner (Riptide Communications, +1 212 260 5000).

SNAP Contacts:

Miguel Hurtado, London, SNAP Spokesperson, +44 (0) 77 8763 8245, [email protected]

Mary Caplan, New York, SNAP Rep to the UN, +1 917 627 4187, [email protected]

Barbara Dorris, St Louis, SNAP Outreach Director, +1 314 862 7688, [email protected]

David Clohessy, St Louis, SNAP Executive Director, +1 314 566 9790, [email protected]

Barbara Blaine, Chicago, SNAP President, +1 312 399 4747, [email protected]

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