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United Nations watchdog slams Vatican's record on child abuse

GENEVA--The U.N. denounced the Vatican on Wednesday for failing to stamp out systematic child abuse and called on the Church to remove all clergy suspected of raping or molesting children.

In a hard-hitting report, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child slammed the Holy See for failing to live up to repeated pledges to put its house in order, and said all clergy and lay employees suspected of abuse must be turned over to the police.

“The committee expresses serious concern that in dealing with child victims of different forms of abuse, the Holy See has systematically placed preservation of the reputation of the Church and the alleged offender over the protection of child victims,” it said.

It urged the Vatican to “immediately remove all known and suspected child sexual abusers from assignment and refer the matter to the relevant law enforcement authorities for investigation and prosecution purposes.”

Committee head Kirsten Sandberg said that despite the Vatican's pledges to adopt a zero tolerance approach, it was in clear breach of the 1989 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“The simple answer is yes, they are in breach of the Convention as up to now, because they haven't done all the things that they should have done,” Sandberg told reporters.

The report said the Vatican “has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators.”

It blasted the practice of transferring abusers to different parishes within countries, and even across borders, in an attempt to cover up their crimes and remove them from the clutches of justice.

“Offenders' mobility, which has allowed many priests to remain in contact with children and to continue to abuse them, still places children in many countries at high risk of sexual abuse, as dozens of child sexual offenders are reported to be still in contact with children,” it said.

The report followed a landmark hearing last month during which members of the committee — made up of 18 independent human rights experts from around the globe — grilled senior Churchmen and repeatedly questioned the Vatican's resolve.

Like other signatories of the 1989 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Vatican agrees to be scrutinized by the panel.

It appeared before the committee in 1995, but that was prior to the abuse issue bursting into the spotlight.

Since 2001, Church abuse cases from around the globe have been dealt with internally by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — the Vatican's justice department.

'Code of silence'

The committee complained that it had failed to receive data on all cases of child sexual abuse handled by the Congregation or the resulting punishments.

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