The United Nations has lambasted the Vatican for failing to protect children from paedophile priests.
As the Holy See basks in the favourable PR provided by Pope Francis, yesterday's inquisition by investigators in Geneva reminded the world of the global scandal that rocked the Catholic Church, and the questions it has yet to answer.
The UN committee's main human rights investigator, Sara Oviedo, pressed the Vatican on the frequency with which abusive priests have been moved to different areas rather than turned over to police. Given the church's 'zero tolerance' policy, she asked, why were there "efforts to cover up and obscure these types of cases"?
Panel member Hiranthi Wijemanne asked Vatican representatives: "Why is there no mandatory reporting to a country's judicial authorities when crimes occur? Taking actions against perpetrators is part of justice."
Monsignor Charles Scicluna the Vatican's former chief sex crimes prosecutor, denied the Holy See encouraged cover-ups: "Our guideline has always been that domestic law of the countries where the churches operate needs to be followed."
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Vatican representative in Geneva, said the Holy See welcomed any suggestions to help it protect children. But critics were sceptical, given that as recently as last month the Holy See refused to provide the panel with key information, including the total number of abuse cases it was aware of -- a figure thought to be in excess of 4,000. The church has also ducked other committee questions.
The Vatican, as member of the UN, is being held to account for apparent breaches of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which calls for signatories to take all appropriate measures to protect children.
The Holy See ratified the convention in 1990, but didn't provide progress reports for nearly a decade. It only submitted a report in 2012, after coming under criticism following the series of child sex abuse cases made public around the world in 2010.
Yesterday's unprecedented inquiry has come largely as a result of intense pressure from victims' groups. Their evidence plus grand jury investigations in the US, and government fact-finding inquiries from Canada, Ireland and Australia, suggest a culture of secrecy at the Vatican contributed the suffering of thousands of children.(© Independent News Service)