Sexual abuse is one of the most violent acts someone can commit against another human being. It’s even worse when the victims are children. The violence is exacerbated when you add the faith and trust these children and their families put in religious institutions, their leaders and employees.
At their very core, religious institutions are against violence. Yet they have allowed it to continue for decades, if not centuries, harbouring perpetrators of some of the worst crimes ever committed against children.
What is needed is real change. For too long religious institutions have gotten away with making paltry promises which they break.
Children around the world need religious institutions to reform their arcane policies and structures and become more transparent and accountable to victims of sexual violence. These institutions must co-operate with state authorities to allow victims to access justice, and stop covering up scandals that allow child abusers to harm more children.
We are stronger when we work together. Go to the get involved section of this campaign for how you can be part of the solution.
Child sexual abuse and the Holy See: the need for justice, accountability and reform
As part of its review of the children’s rights situation in all States that have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child asked the Holy See to provide all the information that it has on child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, monks and nuns around the world. This review took place on 16 January 2014. CRIN reported LIVE from Geneva.
CRIN took this opportunity to launch a campaign to end sexual violence against children in religious institutions, starting with the Catholic Church.
Download our report mapping the global scale of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
Our aim is to press the Holy See to become more transparent as a State with human rights obligations, and to open it up to further and effective scrutiny by United Nations bodies. After all, the Holy See has said that the Convention on the Rights of the Child is “the most important among the rules of international law” (see page 1 of the Holy See’s response to the Committee’s list of issues).
But so far the Holy See has failed to co-operate with the Committee. When the Holy See’s response to the Committee’s questions regarding child sexual abuse was issued in December 2013, it declined to provide this information, stating that the matter did not fall within its jurisdiction and that it is “not the practice of the Holy See to disclose information on the religious discipline”. (see page 16 of the Holy See’s written reply).
What the Holy See should do
Whether the Holy See’s responses are about self-preservation or whether they are just being misconstrued, they highlight the Church’s historic inability to deal with child sexual abuse fairly and effectively. The Church should choose full disclosure of information over self-preservation.
Since his appointment in March 2013, Pope Francis has made numerous pledges to reform the Church and take “decisive action” to stop sexual abuse against children. At CRIN, we see this as an opportunity to challenge the new Pope to do what none before him have managed and keep his promises in this regard.
What the Committee on the Rights of the Child has done
The Committee’s concluding observations (which summarise the discussions during the review and the Committee’s recommendations to the Holy See) were released on 5 February 2014.
The Committee pressed the Holy See during the review to disclose information, strongly recommended the Holy See implement and abide by its human rights obligations and become more transparent and open itself up to scrutiny on this issue. It also rebuffed the argument that the Holy See only has jurisdiction over what happens in the Vatican City State, not Catholic institutions around the world. There are only 36 children within the borders of the Vatican City State, yet, as stated by the Committee “child sexual abuse committed by members of Catholic churches who operate under the authority of the Holy See” involves “tens of thousands of children worldwide”. Read a special edition of CRINmail on the Committee's recommendations.
What children’s rights advocates can do
CRIN’s work is based on the belief that we are more effective and influential when we work collectively. So our report “Child sexual abuse and the Holy See: the need for justice, accountability and reform” is a report. We want to involve advocates in our research and the broader campaign to end child sexual abuse in religious institutions.
Go to the get involved section of this campaign for more on what you can do.