Office Of High Commissioner
GENEVA (21 June 2021) – UN human rights experts* urged the Holy See to take all necessary measures to stop and prevent the recurrence of violence and sexual abuse against children in Catholic institutions, and to ensure those responsible are held to account and reparations are paid to victims.
In a letter to the Holy See in April 2021, the experts expressed “utmost concern about the numerous allegations around the world of sexual abuse and violence committed by members of the Catholic Church against children, and about the measures adopted by the Catholic Church to protect alleged abusers, cover up crimes, obstruct accountability of alleged abusers, and evade reparations due to victims”.
The experts noted the persistent allegations of obstruction and lack of cooperation by the Catholic Church with domestic legal proceedings to prevent accountability of perpetrators and reparations to victims. They also noted the concordats and other agreements negotiated by the Holy See with States that limit the ability of civil authorities to question, compel the production of documents, or prosecute people associated with the Catholic Church.
“We urge the authorities of the Holy See to refrain from obstructive practices and to cooperate fully with the civil judicial and law enforcement authorities of the countries concerned, as well as to refrain from signing or using existing agreements to evade accountability for Church members accused of abuse,” they said.
They also raised concerns about continued attempts by members of the Catholic Church to undermine legislative efforts to prosecute child sex offenders in national jurisdictions, as well as lobbying to preserve the statute of limitations which prevents victims who reach adulthood – when they are more able to report the harm they have suffered in court – from reporting these crimes.
“We urge members of the Catholic Church to refrain from implementing practices that reduce victims’ access to justice for violations they have suffered,” they added.
The UN experts welcomed recent rules established by the Holy See to abolish papal secrecy in cases of sexual abuse, and to allow for the reporting of such cases and the submission of documents to civil authorities of the jurisdictions involved. However, they noted with regret that the request to report crimes to civil authorities was not yet mandatory and urged them to do so as soon as possible.