Roman Catholic child abuse record under spotlight at United Nations

UN Committee Against Torture – report due 23rd May 2014


The UN committee against torture will report on today on the Holy See’s record on torture.

During exchanges on 5th and 6th May 2014 members of the committee against torture repeatedly pressed the Vatican representative on it’s record on child abuse.

The committee are likely to recognise the sexual abuse of minors and women by clergy as torture within the definition of the convention.

Committee members accused the Holy See of having effectively allowed child abuse by clerics to go unpunished with weak systems of investigation, punishment and high level failures to report allegations to the police.

Since 2001 the Roman Catholic Church has been engulfed in child abuse scandals in almost every country worldwide involving not only abuse by priests but also Bishops and the Vatican covering up child abuse.

Critics of the church accuse it of covering up child abuse and fostering an environment in which priests feel able to abuse children without fear of being turned in to the police. Non governmental organisations such as Survivors Voice-Europe based in the UK and SNAP from the US gave evidence to the committee regarding these issues.

Holy See representatives responded by failing to properly answer most of the questions posed by the committee and putting forward an argument that it’s obligations under the convention are confined only to the small area of land in Rome known as the Vatican City. This assertion was unanimously dismissed by the committee.

Sue Cox of commented:

“I represent hundreds of survivors of child sexual abuse and gave evidence this Torture committee and earlier to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

“The response of Vatican representatives has been truly shameful. They have displayed no regret and have tried to lie their way put of the many awkward questions put to them by this committee of world renowned experts.

“Francis has an opportunity to change church rules and culture but the signs are not good. Rather than engage with the UN and heed its criticisms he has tried to defend the indefensible. I hope the UN will take action to shame the church into action.”

David Greenwood, child abuse solicitor with Switalskis Solicitors and children’s rights campaigner with commented:

“Rules promoted by successive Popes require secrecy when dealing with child abuse allegations. This protects abusers from the police. Priests have been moved between dioceses and countries to avoid detection. This has led to a culture in the church in which priests feel able to abuse children without fear of being reported to the police.

“The church has taken no practical steps to improve child protection and has ignored its UN obligations. The disingenuous response given to the committee illustrates the church’s lack of respect for the UN committee and child protection generally.

“The UN committee has the power to take action and thousands of victims of abuse worldwide are hoping for UN action against the Roman Catholic Church.”

For more information contact the following delegates who made submissions to the UN hearings:-

Sue Cox – 07813 808026 or

David Greenwood – 07712 304880 or

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