United Nations Panel Interrogates Vatican about Sexual Abuse Cases

United Nations

On January 16, the United Nations interrogated The Vatican it about its handling of sexual abuse cases over the years. This was the first time the Vatican has faced a prolonged interrogation of this stature and the move seems to have brought much relief to victims of abuse.

Even though representatives of the Vatican insisted that handling sexual abuse cases were not part of its jurisdiction, but of local law enforcement officials and dioceses that have the authority to investigate, prosecute as well as punish perpetrators; they also admitted that the church could definitely do a lot more in preventing crimes of this nature.

“The Holy See gets it. Let’s not say too late or not, but there are certain things that need to be done differently,” said Bishop Charles Scicluna, former chief prosecutor of sexual abuse cases for the Vatican.

The hearing took place in Geneva, after Pope Francis attended morning mass with an American cardinal who was caught amidst a sexual abuse scandal in 2013. At the mass, Francis delivered a sermon regarding scandals in the church but he never mentioned the problem of sexual abuse even though he did refer to “those failings of priests, bishops and laity” in passing.

The United Nations panel had been looking into the Vatican’s inability to adhere to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires signers to secure children from all harm including physical and sexual abuse. Even though it has no authority to issue sanctions and its suggestions are non-binding, the panel will issue its final observations and suggestions on February 5.

The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights is representing many victims of abuse and it has submitted numerous documents and testimonies as evidence against the Vatican having allowed perpetrators to remain in ministry by shuttling them to various locations without informing local parishes and law enforcement officials.

The panel questioned Vatican officials about their ambassador to the Dominican Republic Josef Wesolowski, who is being investigated currently after accusations of sexual abuse surfaced recently. Following a report in a local newspaper, the Vatican reportedly recalled Wesolowski in August 2013 and refused to extradite him to Dominican authorities on January 10. Thereafter, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative to the United Nations, informed the panel that a Vatican tribunal would look into Wesolowski’s case because he cannot be denied that right as a citizen of the Vatican.

During the interrogation, Sara de Jesus Oviedo Fierro, vice president of the United Nations panel, asked representatives of the Vatican why so many cases of sexual abuse have been resurfacing and why reports of cover-ups have doing the rounds repeatedly if the church really does have a zero-tolerance-policy.

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