A UN committee has issued a report assessing Vatican policies concerning children in the wake of worldwide abuse scandals. It said it was "gravely concerned" about how the Church has handled the crisis.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child criticized the Vatican harshly in a report on Wednesday. The scathing review demanded the immediate removal of all known or suspected child abusers within the Church's hierarchy.
It also called for the Holy See to disclose information on past abusers and those who helped them avoid prosecution.
The UN committee's recommendations are non-binding and there is no enforcement mechanism.
"The committee is gravely concerned that the [Vatican] has not acknowledge the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases ofchild sexual abuse and to protect children," the UN committee said on Wednesday.
Speaking at a press conference, the committee's chairperson, Kirsten Sandberg, said current policies had "led to the continuation" of abuse. She added that the Church had put the protection of perpetrators "above the children's best interests."
The report published on Wednesday also criticized the Church's teachings on homosexuality, contraception and abortion.
The Vatican responds
The Vatican called the UN report "distorted" and "unfair."
"This committee has not rendered a good service to the United Nations," the head of the Vatican delegation to UN organizations in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, told Vatican Radio.
He added that non-government organizations favoring gay marriage - something to which the Vatican is opposed - likely influenced the UN to take "an ideological line" in its report.
Panel questions delegation
In mid-January, a delegation from the Holy See appeared before the Geneva-based committee to answer questions regarding the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Vatican ratified the convention in 1990, but then stopped filing progress reports after roughly four years. Last year, the Church finally provided its findings in 2012 after coming under renewed pressure in the wake of revelations of child sex abuse cases in Europe.
Prior to the day-long questioning at the UN, the Holy See had refused to release the details of its internal investigations into abuse cases without a warrant from the state or government. It reasoned that doing so would infringe on the privacy of the "witnesses, the accused and the integrity of the Church process."
Widespread sexual abuse came to light again in 2002 with the resignation of the archbishop of Boston, Bernard Law, after an article in the US daily The Boston Globe pointed to senior clergy members failing to take action against a priest accused of abusing some 130 children over three decades.
In recent years, more victims across the Americas and Europe have come forward, making public the criminal acts against tens of thousands of children in recent decades.
In December, Pope Francis began assembling a sex abuse commission to advise him about protecting children and helping victims.
Such steps, as well as evidence that Emeritus Pope Benedict had removed 400 priests suspected of wrongdoing, have won little praise from critics, however, who are demanding the Church take swift action against not only the perpetrators of the crimes, but also those who try to conceal them.
kms/ipj (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)