GENEVA – A United Nations committee has accused the Vatican of violating the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child by failing to stamp out sexual abuse and imposing a code of silence on clergy.
"Due to a code of silence imposed on all members of the clergy under penalty of excommunication, cases of child sexual abuse have hardly ever been reported to the law enforcement authorities in the countries where such crimes occurred," a report released by the U.N. on Wednesday said.
"They are in breach of the Convention as up to now, because they haven't done all the things that they should have done," Kirsten Sandberg, head of the U.N Committee on the Rights of the Child, said.
Sandberg was speaking to the media after the committee issued the report that castigated the Vatican's implementation of the 1989 UN convention on child rights.
The Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, said, however, that due to the tone of the U.N. report, "not all the observations in the facts have been adequately taken into account in the conclusions."
"The concluding recommendations...point out a rather negative approach to what the Holy See has been doing and has already achieved in the area of the protection of children," The Holy See's Archbishop Silvano Tomasi told Vatican Radio after the report was released.
The report said, "The committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See 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 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."
The report said that said priests who had fathered children should be held accountable and made to provide for them.
Barbara Blaine of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) told journalists in Geneva last month, "For the safety of children, we hope every head of State on the planet reads this and acts on it."
She said, "What we want to see is the Vatican punish bishops who covered up sex crimes, and we want them to turn over information they have about crimes to police."