A United Nations human-rights committee has publicly used the three words the Vatican did not want to hear with regard to the sexual abuse of thousands of children worldwide by priests: “Code of Silence.”
That code, according to a scathing report from the U.N. panel, not only enabled the abuse to continue for decades, but provided blanket protection to the bishops who aided and abetted in the child abuse.
The U.N. has called on the Vatican to immediately remove all priests known or suspected to be child molesters, open its archives on abusers and the bishops who covered up for them, and turn the abuse cases over to law-enforcement authorities for investigation and prosecution.
It brushed aside the Vatican’s claims that safeguards have already been instituted, and it accused the Roman Catholic Church of still harboring criminals.
With the worldwide attention paid to the report, the Vatican scrambled to limit the damage; church officials went so far as to accuse the committee of letting itself be swayed by pro-gay ideologues.
Given that the abuse of children by priests has shaken the church to the core and put the hierarchy on the defensive, the recommendations contained in the U.N. report will be ignored.
The only way the child-abuse scandal will get the serious attention it deserves from Pope Francis is if Catholics around the world — there are more than 1 billion — make it clear that the Vatican should let the chips fall where they may.
And before apologists for the church attempt to denigrate the U.N. report, fair-minded Catholics should consider these facts: the Committee on the Rights of the Child consists of 18 members, including academics, sociologists and child-development specialists from around the globe; their job is to monitor compliance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child; the Vatican ratified the treaty in 1990.
The bottom line of the convention is that signatories are required to protect children from harm.
The Catholic Church has failed in that regard.
Therefore, rather than being defensive about the report and its recommendations, Pope Francis, who was elected in March 2013 by the College of Cardinals about a month after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, should embrace the findings and publicly pledge to get rid of the priests who preyed on the innocent, unsuspecting children and the bishops who protected the clergy.
Benedict came under harsh criticism from various Catholic groups demanding action from Rome against pedophile priests because of his past.
He was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and his duties included dealing with allegations against priests. There are credible reports that Ratzinger made a determined effort to sweep the scandal under the rug.
Pope Francis, who has become a darling of the press because of his willingness to confront the issues, such as homosexuality, that have long divided the church must know that his papacy will be judged on how he deals with the pedophile priests and the bishops who protected them.
There is no doubt that the foundation of the 1.2 billion-strong Roman Catholic Church has been shaken by the scandal. To ignore or demean the report from the United Nations committee is to sanction the criminal and sinful behavior of the predators who are the face of the Catholic Church.