HOLY SEE: Child sexual abuse - Report

Download the report here

The global scale of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, and the Holy See’s cover-ups and denial of justice for victims, has been mapped in a new preliminary report published by CRIN today.

The report coincides with tomorrow’s (16 January) UN review of the Holy See on children’s rights, including cases of child sexual abuse committed by Catholic clerics around the world known to the Holy See*.

The report, “Child sexual abuse and the Holy See: the need for justice, accountability and reform”, published says:

“The Catholic Church is against violence. It stands for the inherent dignity and worth of all human beings. Yet child sexual abuse cases have not been addressed sufficiently for decades. Transparency, in the form of full disclosure to external judicial authorities, is the bridge between intention and achievement. The Vatican should choose full disclosure of information over self-preservation.”

The preliminary report marks the launch of a new campaign by CRIN to end sexual violence against children in religious institutions. With the report, the campaign first looks at child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church because of tomorrow’s UN review on the Holy See**.

Along with mapping the global scale of the abuse, the report illustrates a complete lack of transparency and respect for victim’s rights by the Holy See. It highlights the Holy See’s attempts to deal with child sexual abuse in the Church, including the “geographical cure” - moving priests accused of abuse to another parish, or overseas on a mission, where they continue to have unfettered access to children.

The report also includes a “table of contradictions” showing historical promises made by the Holy See compared to what officials actually did. There remains no consideration for the welfare of the victims and no penalties for clerics who mishandle abuse claims.

Veronica Yates, the Director of CRIN, says:

“Child sexual abuse in religious institutions is one of the worst crimes ever committed against children. Our research shows that allegations of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church have been made in every corner of the world, yet the Holy See continues to harbour perpetrators of abuse, obstruct justice for victims and deny accountability.”

"We believe that transparency, access to justice for children and protection from violence are crucial to securing children’s status as individuals with rights. 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. CRIN sees this as an opportunity to challenge the new Pope to do what none before him have managed and keep his promises in this regard.”

Get involved

Contribute to CRIN’s research: “Child sexual abuse and the Holy See: the need for justice, accountability and reform” is an evolving piece of research that CRIN will continue to add to. To help with the research, CRIN wants to hear from people who:

  • Are interested in hearing from CRIN about campaign follow up, including updates on the preliminary report and outcomes of tomorrow’s UN review.

  • Can verify or challenge any of the information in the report with information from existing court cases.

  • Have information on additional court cases. CRIN will establish a case law database on this issue (within the NGO’s existing children’s rights case law database). CRIN will continue to update the campaign website with information on cases.

Send information by emailing [email protected]. CRIN works in Arabic, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

Twitter: On 16 January the UN is pressing the Holy See on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church around the world. CRIN will be reporting live from Geneva - follow and use #HolySeeConfess.  

Visit the campaign webpage for more ways to get involved.


Notes to editors


.* Background to the UN review

The Holy See has voluntarily ratified the UN Convention on the Rights Child, so like all other State Parties it needs to regularly report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on its adherence to the Convention, which is a legally binding document under international law that includes, among others, children’s right to protection from violence and sexual abuse.

This is the first time the UN has requested such specific details on child sexual abuse from the Holy See. The Holy See has reported to the Committee before, with its first report submitted after ratifying the Convention back in 1995. Its second report was due in 1997, but it only submitted it in 2011, after which the Committee scheduled its review for January 2014.

You can find all official documents regarding the review on the Committee on the Rights of the Child’s 65th session page. Part 1 of CRIN’s preliminary report contains further details about the UN review.

CRIN will be reporting live from Geneva during the UN review. Follow #HolySeeConfess.

** While the preliminary report and first stage of the campaign focus on the Catholic Church, we are aware that other religious institutions are also implicated in historic and current sexual violence against children. We aim to expand our research and find additional partners to pursue a broader campaign against this rights abuse in other religious institutions. Please contact [email protected] for further information.

Child Rights International Network (CRIN) is a global children’s rights advocacy network. Established in 1995, we press for rights - not charity - and campaign for a genuine shift in how governments and societies view and treat children. We link to nearly 3,000 organisations that between them work on children’s rights in every country in the world and rely on our publications, research and information sharing. www.crin.org

Disclaimer: “Child sexual abuse and the Holy See: the need for justice, accountability and reform” is a preliminary report, and along with its corresponding materials, has been prepared in good faith on the basis of information available at the date of publication. Child Rights International Network (CRIN) does not guarantee the accuracy of sources cited in this report and welcomes any input, comments, corrections or further information.

This report is provided for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. CRIN does not accept liability for any loss, damage, cost or expense incurred or arising by reason of any person using or relying on information in this report.


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Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.