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How the Vatican has dealt with the scandals of sexual abuse

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How the Vatican has dealt with the scandals of sexual abuse


The Vatican is under scrutiny. It happens with the Roman Catholic Church and its hierarchy each time a paedophile scandal is brought into the open. It has happened over the past fourteen years and of such magnitude that the United Nations has questioned the Church.

In 2014 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child released a damning report on the Holy See.

“The Holy See has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators. Another matter was the code of silence that was imposed by the Church on children and the fact that reporting to national law enforcement authorities has never been made compulsory,” said Kirsten Sandberg, Chairwoman of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

That is exactly what was revealed in 2002 when such a scandal broke in Boston. The Archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law, under public pressure was forced to resign. He had turned his back on many cases of sexual abuse committed by priests with impunity in his diocese.

In Dublin in 2009 a similar story broke, revealed after an inquiry which lasted nine years. Thousands of children had been sexually abused for decades in institutions run by the Catholic church. Rape and molestation were “endemic” in the centres for boys according to the report including at the Artane Industrial School where sexual abuse it said was a “chronic problem”.

“This document, this inquiry vindicates what victims had said. It mentions where children were raped and brutally abused and victims feel vindicated by that. That will give them some comfort,” said John Kelly, an alleged victim of abuse.

In 2010 it was the German Catholic church which was caught up in cases of sexual abuse in several education institutions dating back to the 1970s.

Once again the hierarchy’s position was brought into sharp focus and its refusal to solve the problems according to this man.

“You saw the reactions of the individual people. No one is guilty: ‘I don’t assume any responsibility’, Bishop Ackermann says. He is a man installed by the church. That means those who are responsible for the crimes again are sitting down at a table to discuss how to move on,” said Norbert Denef, spokesman for the Network of victims for sexual abuse.

It was a criticism which Pope Francis listened to because the scandal was twofold: thousands of children who were abused and dozens of bishops who opted to protect their abusers.

“I humbly ask forgiveness. I beg your forgiveness, too, for their sins of omission on the part of the Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by the victims of abuse themselves,” Pope Francis said.

Since then Pope Francis has created a Vatican tribunal to scrutinise bishops accused of covering up such scandals involving sexually abusive priests by moving them between diocese and shielding them from investigation.

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