- (Photo:Reuters/Paul Hanna)
The Vatican promised to make changes to the way it handles child abuse cases after a U.N. panel in Geneva on Thursday questioned why the Roman Catholic Church refuses to release more information about such incidents, and what it is doing to prevent future abuse.
"We will very gladly take this occasion as a constructive moment, an important occasion, to reaffirm the value and the procedures of the convention and to accept any good advice that is given for that can be helpful in the protection of children," said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the U.N. in Geneva.
The Roman Catholic Church was asked if it believes "that pedophilia is something that can be successfully overcome." The Convention on the Rights of the Child pointed to child sexual abuse cases concerning clergy who were moved instead of defrocked.
"The question of what I would call offender mobility is of great concern," said Bishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican's former chief prosecutor of clerical sexual abuse. "It is a no-go simply to move people from one diocese to another ... That is policy that has to be followed." He added that the Vatican does not encourage cover-ups, and admitted that "there are things that need to be done differently."
The U.N. panel is reviewing the Vatican's commitment to the CRC, a legally binding international pact seeking specifically for protect children under 18 years of age.
"The Holy See has not established any mechanism to investigate those accused of perpetrating sexual abuse, nor to prosecute them," said CRC member Sara Oviedo on Thursday, according to BBC News.
In July 2013, Pope Francis issued a decree adopted by the Vatican City-State that specifically outlined sexual abuse of children as a crime, as part of its determination to work with international conventions and further address the numerous scandals over the decades where Catholic priests have been accused of molesting children.
"Act decisively as far as cases of sexual abuse are concerned, promoting, above all, measures to protect minors, help for those who have suffered such violence in the past [and] the necessary procedures against those who are guilty," Francis has urged Bishop Gerhard Mueller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith that oversees clerical sex abuse cases.
On Thursday, Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Press Office of the Holy See, released a three-page note about the Vatican's history of adhering to CRC guidelines.
"The Holy See is deeply saddened by the scourge of sexual abuse of minors, which harms millions of children throughout the world," the note reads, and adds that the church "laments that, sadly, certain members of the clergy have been involved in such abuse."
Fr. Lombardi confirmed the Vatican's "whole-hearted adhesion" to the CRC, and insisted that the Holy See "is an active promoter of an immense current of caring service to the good of children throughout the world – and the inspiring guidance and leadership of Pope Francis gives a new and evident energy to this commitment."