BY Ian Dunn | January 24 2014 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Church action on abuse is clear

From laicising priests to stringent child safeguarding, the Vatican acts on the problem

The depth of the Vatican’s commitment to end the scourge of clerical abuse has been revealed this week after it emerged Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had laicised almost 400 priests in his last two years as Pontiff for such crimes; and Pope Francis said people who abused children could have ‘no living relationship with God.’

Documents prepared by the Vatican ahead of testimonies given to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child last week reveal that in 2011-2012 Pope Benedict defrocked close to 400 priests for abusing children, a substantial increase on previous years. The statistics were compiled from the Vatican’s own annual reports about the activities of its various offices, including the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles such cases.

In a clear indication he will continue the vigorous measures of his predecessor, Pope Francis last Thursday spoke about the shame of the ‘many scandals’ perpetrated by members of the Church. Those who abuse and exploit others, he added, may wear a Holy medal or a Cross, but they have no ‘living relationship with God or with His Word.’

“There are so many scandals that I do not wish to mention individually, but we all know about them,” he said during his morning Mass. “We know where they are! The Word of God was rare in those scandals. In those men, in those women, the Word of God was rare. They did not have a bond with God. They had a position in the Church, a position of power as well as comfort, but not the Word of God.”

At the hearings of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva last week, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican observer to UN agencies in Geneva, said that the Church recognises abuse of children, sexual or otherwise, as both a crime and sin, and the Vatican has been promoting policies that ‘when properly applied, will help eliminate the occurrence of child sexual abuse by clergy and other Church personnel.’

Archbishop Tomasi was speaking during the committee’s annual session that reviews reports from states that have signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Holy See signed the treaty in 1990.

“There is no excuse for any form of violence or exploitation of children,” the archbishop said. “Such crimes can never be justified, whether committed in the home, in schools, in community and sports programmes, in religious organisations and structures.”

Archbishop Tomasi told the UN committee that, in December, Pope Francis approved the establishment of an international commission to promote child protection and prevent abuse.

In late November last year, the Vatican responded in writing to questions from the UN committee about its last report on compliance with the treaty. At that time, much of the Vatican response involved explaining the difference between the Vatican’s direct legal jurisdiction over Vatican City State and its moral and canonical influence over Catholics around the world.

“Priests are not functionaries of the Vatican,” Archbishop Tomasi told the committee. “They are citizens of their own state and fall under the jurisdiction of that state.”

Archbishop Tomasi also acknowledged that ‘abusers are found among members of the world’s most respected professions, most regrettably, including members of the clergy and other Church personnel.’




—This story ran in full in the January 24 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes.


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