Victims to new pope: Honor the treaty, provide the information, meet the deadline

For immediate release: Tuesday, July 16

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

Last week, a United Nations committee requested information from the Vatican about clergy sex crimes and cover ups.

It’s a straightforward and reasonable request. But it’s also an historic and encouraging request.

It’s historic because, until now, no truly independent, international body has ever really sought extensive information from high-ranking Catholic officials about this on-going crisis.

It’s encouraging because it may prod other secular authorities – especially at the international level - to take similar steps to document, investigate, or prevent more violence by Catholic clerics against innocent children and vulnerable adults. And it’s encouraging because it may indicate that the long standing and dangerous preferential treatment of Catholic officials by secular officials is slowly waning.

We urge Pope Francis to provide this information and meet this deadline. He seems to be the master of symbolic gestures. But symbolic gestures don’t protect kids. Tangible, courageous action protects kids.

Others in the Vatican will no doubt pressure the pontiff to do as church officials have always done and resist anything that even seems like external oversight. We hope those well-entrenched, reactionary forces won’t prevail. We predict, however, that they will.

The UN’s request is a simple one. Pope Francis presents himself as a simple man. And he’s carefully fostering an image as a reformer. But kids don’t need an image of reform. They need real reform.

Given the Vatican’s long track record on abuse, and Pope Francis’ recent track record on abuse, we are skeptical that the Catholic hierarchy will meet the UN panel’s November 1 deadline. We hope we’re wrong. But recall three notorious cases involving clergy child sex crimes and cover ups.

--In a notorious Irish case, a Vatican ambassador refused to cooperate with a governmental investigation because the request wasn’t made through a “diplomatic pouch.”

--In one notorious US case, a pedophile priest won 33 delays in his civil/criminal case.

--In another notorious US case, a Pennsylvania diocese delayed a case for 20 years (until it was finally resolved for $2.7 million in 2008).

So church officials usually try to delay over and over again in pedophile priest cases. We hope Pope Francis doesn’t do so here.

Remember: this is a nearly-universally accepted treaty. Vatican officials voluntarily signed it. They’ve had decades to adjust to it. They shouldn’t keep breaking it. It’s just that simple.

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