The recently published Amnesty International 400-page report, “Amnesty International Report 2011: The State of the World’s Human Rights” squarely blames the Holy See, the political arm of the Vatican for turning a blind eye over the past decades for widespread sexual abuse of children in various countries. Amongst the list of failures, it includes “not removing alleged perpetrators from their posts pending proper investigations, not co-operating with judicial authorities to bring them to justice and not ensuring proper reparation to victims.”
In addition, “there were serious concerns about the lack of adequate investigation and transparent reporting by the Health Service Executive on deaths of children in State child protection services.” In Rome, “the Holy See did not sufficiently comply with its international obligations relating to the protection of children”, thus failing to honour its obligations under the United Nations Charter on the Rights of the Child, to which it is a signatory.
Keith Porteus Wood, the Executive Director of the National Secular society (1) and a campaigner for a Secular Europe, has recently also criticized international authorities for not taking Vatican to task for these blatant human rights abuse. He has raised similar issues at at plenary sessions of the UN Human Rights Council in 2009, 2010 and most recently March 2011, for a co-ordinated effort by governments to pressurize the Vatican to make the issue transparent, and bring the guilty to justice. There is a general feeling that the recent Vatican apologies (2) are simply not enough.
So what is the logical future option for Catholics and the Vatican, beyond all this embarrassment and recent suggestions that it is a crumbling, guilt-ridden establishment ? What must be remembered is that these heinous actions have nothing to do with organized religion at a fundamental level : abuse has been going on for years, and will go on without stricter concerted action without anything to do with religion in educational institutions, orphanages and childcare institutions. That the Vatican did not have procedures in place to prevent them, or bring them to light and prosecution is a wide-spread systems failure that must be addressed on a priority basis. Every religion, and its institutions have their own evolutionary history, and to use this regrettable failure of justice as a premise to comment upon the future course of organized religion is perhaps irrelevant to the current crisis.
As for reforming the Vatican, the reform must come from within. The Vatican is no closer to ‘God’ than its harshest critics, and without bringing theological politics in any shape or form the right thing to do is to address human failings in a ‘human’ justice system like any other offender would be required to, starting with a fair trial. And in this, the Vatican officials should not stand in the way of justice in any possible way, if the current leadership wants to retain any credibility for the future.
News Sources :
UPDATESince this article was written, the Vatican has issued guidelines to bishops worldwide to report any matters pertaining to sexual abuse to the police, and new guidelines for prevention would be in place by May 2012.
67-68 Hatton Garden
London EC1N 8JY