Reuters: Alessandro BianchiThe Vatican is under fire by the UN watchdog for children's rights, which is demanding the Holy See turn over its archives on child sex abusers and those who concealed the crimes.
The U.N. watchdog's exceptionally blunt paper demands the Vatican turn over its archives on child sexual abusers and those who concealed their crimes.GENEVA/VATICAN CITY — The United Nations on Wednesday accused the Vatican of systematically turning a blind eye to decades of sexual abuse of children by priests, and demanded it immediately turn over known or suspected offenders to civil justice.
In a scathingly blunt report, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said Church officials had imposed a "code of silence" on clerics and moved abusers from parish to parish "in an attempt to cover up such crimes".
U.N. report blasts Vatican for putting reputation before child sex abuse victims
Vatican acknowledges 'no excuse' for child abuse
The combative exchange sets the scene for the Vatican's biggest clash with the United Nations since 1994. Then, at a U.N. population conference in Cairo, the Vatican forced the international organisation to back down on a proposal to approve abortion as a means of birth control.
The report also lays out a fresh challenge for a commission named by Pope Francis in December to advise him on a scandal that has plagued the Church for decades.
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Pope Francis, in office for only 11 months, has called sexual abuse of children "the shame of the Church" and has vowed to continue procedures put in place by his predecessor, Benedict XVI.
But the report expressed "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".
BISHOPS NOT ACCOUNTABLE
While several bishops have resigned after abuse scandals in their dioceses, victims' groups say the Vatican must make bishops legally accountable for alleged cover-ups.
"If the pope is serious about turning the page on this scandal, he should immediately dismiss any bishop who oversaw a diocese in which a priest who abused children was shielded from the civil authorities," said Jon O'Brien, president of the U.S. lobby group Catholics for Choice.
The report said Francis's commission should invite outside experts and victims to participate in an investigation of abusers "as well as the conduct of the Catholic hierarchy in dealing with them".
Miguel Hurtado, who was sexually abused by a priest in Spain when he was 16 and travelled to Geneva for the report's release, said he felt emotional and vindicated.
"Many times, victims were disbelieved. They doubted our stories, they doubted our motives. They thought that our motives were because we were after money or destroying or attacking the Church," the 31-year-old told Reuters.