The UN takes aim at the Vatican over child sexual abuse

A new UN committee has said the Vatican needs to open its files and defrock priests because it has found the Vatican systematically allowed priests to sexually abuse children and turned a blind eye. (AP/Alessandra Tarantino)


A recent critical UN report says that for decades, the Vatican systematically adopted policies that allowed Bishops to enable and cover up for abusive priests. Today ... the reaction and the fallout from victims and from the Church.

"The main finding of the committee was that the Holy See has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators. The Holy See has consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the church and the protection of the perpetrators above children's best interests."

Kirsten Sandberg, UN Committee Chair on the Rights of the Child

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Kirsten Sandberg, the Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, didn't pull any punches
at a news conference in Geneva yesterday. (AP/Anja Niedringhaus)

A new UN report says that for decades, the Vatican's leadership has turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests. The committee also accuses Church officials of imposing a strict "code of silence" and of systematically covering up abuses as they were happening.

Q&A: Vatican child abuse scandal — BBC

The Vatican calls the report distorted and unfair. But people who work on behalf of those who have been sexually assaulted say it's an important step forward in the search for justice.

"The UN today didn't speak in, what we often think, as the kind of diplomatic language where you have to read between the lines to understand what the language is. I think the report that they issued this morning is crystal clear in the level of the concern that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has about the widespread nature of sexual violence within the church."

Katherine Gallagher, attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights who works with the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP)

But despite the Vatican's dark history, many people in Rome still have faith Pope Francis will take action.

The Church says it will study the report's observations --- but does not appreciate the UN's harsh language. Some observers say the report overstepped its bounds --- because it also asks the Church to change its position on abortion.

  • John Allen was a longtime Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and now writes for the Boston Globe. He was in Boston.

  • Archbishop Paul Andre Durocher is the Archbishop of Gatineau and the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops developed guidelines for dealing with sexual abuse back in 1991 and is currently in the process of updating those guidelines. Archbishop Paul Andre Durocher was in Gatineau, Quebec.

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This segment was produced by The Current's Dawna Dingwall, Gord Westmacott, Naheed Mustafa and Alexa Huffman.

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