VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican came under sharp criticism Thursday (Jan. 16) for the way it has handled the clergy sex abuse scandal around the world, with even Pope Francis lamenting “corrupt priests” who serve a “poisoned meal” to their flocks.

View down Via della Conciliazione to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Italy. Photo by Jimmy Harris via Flickr (http://flic.kr/p/4YWkiq)

View down Via della Conciliazione to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy. Photo by Jimmy Harris via Flickr (http://flic.kr/p/4YWkiq) Photo courtesy of Jimmy Harris via Flickr


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Vatican officials endured what may be the most high-profile grilling on the topic at a conference hosted by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva. This is the first time Vatican officials have been directly questioned in a U.N. context on this topic.

Monsignor Charles Scicluna, a former abuse prosecutor with the Holy See, represented the Vatican at the conference, conceding the magnitude of the problem and saying more had to be done to confront it, but also insisting the Vatican could do little to confront the issue worldwide because of its limited jurisdiction.

“The Holy See gets it,” said Scicluna, now a bishop in Malta. “Let’s not say it is or is not too late. There are clearly certain things that must be done differently in the future.”

The committee accused the Holy See of failing to abide by terms of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the Vatican joined in 1990. The treaty calls for parties to take all steps to protect children from harm –  something critics say the Vatican has repeatedly failed to do when it acted to protect pedophile priests at the expense of their victims.

The grilling in Geneva came one day after the Archdiocese of Chicago released nearly 6,000 pages of internal documents – including complaints and personnel files on 30 priests — as an auxiliary bishop again apologized for the “sins and crimes” committed in the church.

In a three-page statement issued in Rome, the Vatican’s top spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, tried to create space between the Vatican and abusive priests, saying that critics “presuppose that bishops or religious superiors act as representatives or delegates of the pope — (though this is) utterly without foundation.”

Afterward, victims groups lined up to attack the Vatican’s assertion that it was limited in what it could do to confront the problem.

“The Vatican has consistently refused to accept responsibility for its role in perpetuating rape and sexual violence against children in the church and further enabling it by protecting offending priests,” said Pam Spees, senior staff attorney from the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which has tried to sue the Vatican for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

While little new information about the sexual abuse scandals has emerged in the 10 months since Francis was elected pope, the popular pontiff has drawn criticism for failing to confront the topic directly beyond drafting a new advisory panel to look at the church’s response.

Speaking at his daily Mass inside the Vatican, Francis on Thursday mentioned the topic in his homily, saying the scandals were the result of a flawed relationship with God.

“Scandals in the church happen because there is no living relationship with God and his Word,” Francis said. “Thus, corrupt priests, instead of giving the bread of life, give a poisoned meal to the holy people of God.”

But for survivors’ advocates, the pope’s remarks so far are inadequate for the size of the problem.

“The new pope seems to be making encouraging gestures in a lot of areas, but he’s doing nothing to even begin to expose, much less reverse, decades of selfish church cover-ups that endanger kids and protect predators,” said Barbara Blaine, president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

KRE/MG END LYMAN

37 Comments

  1. “The grilling in Geneva came one day after the Archdiocese of Chicago released nearly 6,000 pages of internal documents – including complaints and personnel files on 30 priests — as an auxiliary bishop again apologized for the “sins and crimes” committed in the church.”

    Or rather

    Conveniently, the day before the grilling in Geneva, the Archdiocese of Chicago released nearly 6,000 pages of internal documents – including complaints and personnel files on 30 priests — as an auxiliary bishop again apologized for the “sins and crimes” committed in the church.

    I don’t know what appalls me more, the fact that priests have raped, and probably continue to rape children worldwide, or that this so called “Church of God” has had their leadership deeply involved in covering up these atrocities.

    Religion is poison!

      • The record of evil in religious groups certainly supports your premise. The evil of the Catholic clergy sex scandal is certainly at the top of that list. It is more than sufficient reason to never open the door of a Catholic church. How can such an evil organization guide anyone in sensible belief, good morals, or good ethics?

        • May the Catholic Church die. It is a criminal organization.
          The lies, pomp and absolutist claims are unsubstantiated nonsense.

          Next, accused priests need to be tried for pedophilia outside of the Vatican courts. The Vatican cannot be allowed to stand against the rest of humanity.

          • Nothing “absolutist” in the claim, Shaman, that there is no God, eh? Never mind that you can’t substantiate any claim that there is no God, eh?

            Priests and bishops are being tried. You could look it up. You cannot demonstrate that the Vatican itself has obstructed justice in local courts.

          • NO, DUANE… I do NOT claim that God does not exist.
            He MIGHT! Let Him speak for Himself. He may be watching us now for all I know.

            But there is no reason to believe in God and no reason to bother with it.
            And there is every reason to AVOID it.

            I am an Atheist – that only means I do not believe.
            It is not a claim that God is impossible.

          • Shaman, to refer to your posting at night on 17 January. Your words, to me, suggest that you are an agnostic, not an atheist. The latter holds the position that there is no God.

            The former does not make such a statement: “NO, DUANE… I do NOT claim that God does not exist.
            He MIGHT! Let Him speak for Himself. He may be watching us now for all I know.” That is not the claim of an atheist.

        • We wait for all the “enlightened” atheists to go into high dudgeon over sexual abuse of kids in the school systems. That won’t happen because the assorted “progressives” value public education for its continued support of virtually everything they stand for. It seems that progressives are concerned about child abuse only when it is committed by clergy. Time for them to broaden their horizons, which is probably asking the impossible of them.

          • You love the term “high dudgeon,” don’t you? It certainly startles wonder how you could be so blasé about the sexual abuse of anyone, especially young people. Your fight, though you don’t realize it, is between terms that you don’t seem to understand, “conservatives” and “progressives.” It seems only human that anyone in either of your groups should be enormously revolted by the sexual abuse of anyone, especially children.

          • gilchan, where do you get the notion that I am indifferent to any sexual abuse? I merely stated that around these parts there’s been no expressed concern about sexual abuse in public education, not even as a parenthetical element. I’ve expressed elsewhere and to others here that I don’t believe current penalties for abuse are tough enough. Where do you find, at least on this board, any liberal or conservative defending sexual abuse? I don’t get it.

            I’m not afraid to say it: Liberals–progressives, whatever name they choose these days to give themselves–are very defensive and try to be secretive about their political and cultural identity. They do not like the label. Why? You demonstrate that in your afternoon 17 Jan. reply to me. We conservatives are not afraid of our label.

    • When will you, Al Anon, respect the Constitution of this country (and perhaps those of many other countries as well) regarding freedom of religion. Or is it fair to presume that you do not respect the Constitution. That is true for most “progressives.” No, they won’t admit it; they simply refuse to state that they do respect it and “move on” to other topics on websites if pressed for a statement.

      Yes, governments do attempt to “reform.” Some examples in the US:

      50 years of a war on poverty that has given us more poverty–at a pricetag of 20 trillion so far and with only failure to show for the efforts.

      A socialist healthcare scheme in this country that, thus far, has thrown more people out of healthcare than it has added. You can look up the facts yourself if you’re actually curious. Or perhaps you didn’t know this because you watch only mainstream “news” media or the liberal blogosphere.

      Hooray for big government!

      • The unqualified lumping of people with whom you disagree on a particular matter into a group you then meaninglessly belittle just because of the name you have assigned to them is the essence of prejudice. All prejudice is based on ignorance about that toward which the bias is held.

        • What has this to do with “calling the cards as they’re played”? Conservatism spends quite a bit of time point out the insanity of contemporary liberalism, true. Note, contemporary. We rail against the nonsense liberals stand for, pointing out the utter failures of their pet programs (Great Society, for one), the hypocrisy on which their legislation is written (Obamacare Dems exempting Congress from the law, to give one example). Proportionally, liberals didn’t even support the Voting Rights Act as strongly as conservatives did. Check the vote for yourself. Liberals call abortion “women’s health,” an utter perversion of language.

          I would think that any liberal embarrassed about being called such would take a bit of time to examine the premises upon which his worldview is based. If he didn’t like what he saw, he would abandon liberalism. That does NOT mean joining the GOP!

      • I’m not disrespecting any constitution, I only expressed desire for a fulfillment of Bible prophecy…

        Specifically the one in Revelation 17:16 . . .”And the ten horns that you saw, and the wild beast [governments, acting through the United Nations], these will hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked, and will eat up her fleshy parts and will completely burn her with fire. . .”

        In other words, suddenly and unexpectedly, governments will move to violently, totally annihilate false religion.

        Sounds farfetched to those not “in the know” but mark the Bible’s words, it will happen.

    • The conflict that exists between politics and religion, church and government, is precisely why the Framers of our Constitution, wisely informed in history, determined that the very first of our “rights” should be protection against any and all dangers of mingling church and state.

      • You are right, gilhcan. However, this means that the government is not to inject itself into religion nor to sponsor any specific creed as a national religion. That would be “mingling.” The Constitution forbids the federal government, however, from interfering in any way with public expression of religious sentiment.

        What many fail to realize is that the federal Constitution does more to limit the powers of the federal government than it does to promote it. We can see that simply from reading it, especially the Bill of Rights. Conservatives want these limits enforced, returning power to the states that has been usurped by liberal courts and Congresses.

    • The president of the Maldives just this week has vetoed legislation regarding rape in marriage, calling the law anti-Islamist. Wanna bet that the UN’s human rights sham agency will have nothing to say about this? Do you know which nations now sit on that committee, and do you know their own records regarding human rights? Perhaps you don’t know or don’t care, in which case see the next paragraph:

      Liberals are concerned only about advancing their own agenda, no matter the hypocrisy of double-standardness involved.

        • Here goes: My political and economical conservatism means the powers of the federal government should be limited by the demands of the Constitution itself and that the government should not borrow money but live within its means.

          My cultural conservatism is based on the premise that there are metaphysical principles that should guide us as individuals and as a society in order to promote the common wealth. The individual is not the arbiter of right and wrong, good and evil. If that were so, we’d have no philosophical defense against any threat to our well-being or safety.

          On religious matters I don’t have to like a particular religion or sect to know that it is protected by the Constitution and that the federal government has been given no power to usurp those protections, irrespective of what any court might conclude. The Constitutioin is our law and its plain word mean exactly what they say, and any question about them is to be referred to the Founders writings for clarification of what should be our understanding. They wrote the Document and gave us much background on their thinking. What we don’t like we can only change by the amendment process itself, not by judicial fiat.

          I think you will find that all of my remarks stem from these principles.

      • Duane,
        What is your problem? All religion is nonsense.
        All grown-ups know this.

        Islamists need to be educated on evolution, science, history…you name it. Then they will be agnostics and atheists too.

        The world cannot handle this ancient nonsense anymore.

        • Shaman, your statement is a judgment without any proof. That you find some expressions of “religion” intolerable, is reasonable. I don’t agree with some of them, either.

      • I criticized it in the thread on the subject. So did several others. Who are you talking about?

        If given a choice, American (Christian Fundamentalist) conservatives would gladly enact their own form of such laws and they frequently chime in supporting such measures. You are full of crap.

        http://inthecapital.streetwise.co/2014/01/16/virginia-gop-candidate-rants-about-spousal-rape-abraham-lincoln-and-baby-pesticide/

        www.liveleak.com/view?i=671_1389920317

        Who are you kidding here?

        • Larry, you may be right about Christian Fundamentalists. They, however, do not constitute the majority of Christian believers by any means. Perhaps you don’t understand this and consider that small group to be the boogeyman under your bed.

          I agree that Islamic fundamentalism should be crushed as a perversion of Islam. It has made no bones about its intent to conquer the world, destroy Western culture, and reestablish the caliphate. They’ve attacked often enough for us to know they mean business. No society should tolerate in its midst a group determined to destroy that very society.

          I don’t know why you get upset about lunatics trying to get elected to important office. They never make it past a primary, anyway. You had no trouble electing as president a person who told us from the get-go that he wanted to fundamentally change American society. He had a history in Illinois trying to do just that. It seems the only loons you worry about are those on the right, while we’ve already had five years of a loon on the left, with hardly a single member of his administration having had a real job before going to DC. Look at their cv’s!

  2. Sorry. On this one I couldn’t disagree more strongly with the Vatican. The international cover-up by bishops took place under the tenure of John Paul II and Benedict, but if Francis’ administration is going to try to defend it in any way, then it is equally wrong and guilty. Young people sexually abused by “celibate, chaste” clergy are just as “poor” as those without food in their stomachs, clothes on their bodies, a bed to sleep on, in need of medical care, or a roof over their heads.

  3. These attempted excuses by the Vatican are insults, to say noting of continuing sinful lies in the very long injury of sex abuse of our kids and other faults of the institutional church. The Roman Church, the Catholic Church, ever since the non-Christian Emperor Constantine took it over at his Nicaea Council in 325, has had a history of so much moral degradation that it gives an extremely bad and sinful name to religion. Supposedly, that is the opposite of what religion is supposed to be.

    For Monsignor Charles Scicluna to dare to claim that the Vatican “could do little to confront the issue worldwide because of its limited jurisdiction” is not even prosecutorial or diplomatic, it is a lie. The Vatican, the central headquarters of a church that, like Wall St., is considered “Too big to fail,” like Wall St., has failed miserably and is now rubbing salt in our wounds by lying miserably to us.

    Under John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger rehabilitated the “Holy Office of the Inquisition” by condemning, silencing, and excommunicating numerous theologians and others who dared to disagree with him. When Ratzinger was Pope Benedict, he continued with Cardinal William Levada, his U.S. replacement at the “Holy Office” to silence and remove those with whom he disagreed. Don’t dare to tell us now, Scicluna, that the Vatican’s “worldwide jurisdiction” is any more limited than it was during the Middle Ages!

    The U.N. Convention of the Rights of the Child should “excommunicate” the Vatican as a member because of its rank contradictions of that Convention’s terms. And top Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi attempts to be just as deceitful as Scicluna when he joins his chorus about bishops and religious superiors being independent of Vatican control.

    Remember what John Paul II did to the former head of the Jesuits? Who initiated the gestapo investigation of U.S. nuns because those nuns were not considered sufficiently submissive to the “Holy See?” Who hires and fires any clergy who are not properly submissive to the Vatican? The pope, and John Paul II fiercely limited that firing to his action. Who requires “ad lumina visits” of bishops every five years to the Vatican to account for their tenure?

    Has anyone outside the Vatican and its national consulates and diocesan chanceries ever been privy to the communications between those entities? What is the purpose of the supreme secrecy of activity among the managers of the Catholic Church? The Catholic Church wants to be recognized as a state, but it does not even behave on the moral level of what is expected of a religious organization. Welcome to the club! The Lateran Treaty should be revoked!

  4. You know, the super secrecy of action at the Vatican, except for a few public displays to maintain image, that super secrecy between the Vatican, its nunciatures in various countries, and with diocesan chanceries is much like the current U.S. Senate Finance Committee run by Max Baucus, Obama’s nominee-in-waiting as ambassador to China.

    Even other senators, even the senators on the committee, much less the people of this so-called democracy are not allowed any real knowledge or participation in the Baucus-”Finance Committee”-Obama shenanigans to ramrod through the latest, destructive TPP trade agreement with the Pacific nations like Vietnam, China, Japan. All is super-secret, kept from the knowledge of “We, the people,” so the corporations can continue to rifle the declining wealth of the rest us with unbalanced trade that benefits only them.

    That’s like the activities in the management echelons of the Catholic Church. Then those people at the top dare to call it “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic,” and most of the suckers at the lower levels who know nothing about their church history fall for this distortion–and the distortions of people like Charles Scicluna, the current bishop of Malta, Federico Lombardi, continuing Vatican spokesperson, and all kinds of others.

    If Francis really means what he claims as “a poisoned meal” from “corrupt priests,” he needs to take action to break this vicious cycle of distortion, break up the church, and include lay people in its management. It is their church! The clergy should be serving them. The church cannot continue to be managed by clericalist clergy alone, not at the parish, diocesan, national, or international levels. It has always been too corrupt using that style. The People of God must be included in all matters at all levels.

    • Such high dudgeon by religion haters on a website devoted to religion. Perhaps you are grazing in the wrong pasture. Well, not grazing. Pooping. George Soros offers you better accommodations, perhaps.

      • This response means what? It is very significant religion news when top officials of the Catholic Church continue to try to whitewash the sinful and criminal behavior they have been hiding worldwide. They have been very successful with many civil justice systems. This has been the case since the beginning of the exposure of the sex abuse of kids. It is the very thing RNS has been commendably exposing. It is a purpose of religious news.

        Using fancy terms like “high dudgeon” and belittling those who expose these sins and crimes as “religion haters” is the epitome of using religion as hate. Descending to the “p” word exposes the writer completely. The meaningless reference to George Soros betrays the dark corner in which the writer exists in company with those who defend or hide the sexual abuse of kids by Catholic clergy or by anyone else.

        • To clarify, even at this late date, gilchan. I don’t disagree with your disappointment in the Catholic Church’s handling of sexual abuse. I don’t think that you can place as much blame at the very top as you do. The Vatican bureaucracy has done its best, it seems, sometimes to keep the pope out of the loop on these matters.

          I also know from personal experience with them that many of the older priests, having gone to seminary after 8th grade, simply do not have the understanding of the dynamics of the human family, for one thing. They are living in their own world. For many at the top, I suspect, there’s virtually no understanding of sex, certainly nothing of the rearing of children. I sometimes wonder how much this might play in the apparent indifference to the abuse committed by some. “Sex is bad. I’ll close my eyes and ears to it.”

          No, this is not a defense; it’s a possible explanation of unacceptable dynamics at the Vatican. That is changing. The problem is more local. There are enough priests and laity in every diocese to make life miserable for any bishop who moves bad priests around. They didn’t. This is one more reason why I can accept vigilante justice.

          How you can make what you did of my reference to Soros is beyond anyone’s capacity to understand. Go back to the context in which I referred to that billionaire leftist.

  5. I am not as brilliant as anyone who writes here. I have been terribly hurt by a priest; which if I had chose I could have sued in civil and criminal court. As to the Church, I love her. I know no member who claims to be free of sin, no human free of error, all her members are human; I certainly claim both. She however, despite her problems, and gifts throughouts the centuries is the one true Church established by Christ if you know your history. As to God, I have proof He exist, He has revealed His existance to me. I have heard the angels sing, and the terrifying laugh of the Evil One. Why me, I have no idea. I think it is because I am just like everyone, no different from all. Like the little sparrows you see everywhere diving for the crumbs at the discount store, just your everyday person whom He Loves with such faithful, perfect love, as He loves all. I cannot of course prove this, and most will say on saying it i am insane, however, some will feel a desire, a hope; and that is the beginning of knowing.

  6. As to the sexual abuse of God’s children by priest, publicized around the world, though abuse occurs everywhere, and why? It is because priest act in the person of Christ, so it is of the deepest and greatest betrayal, the betrayal that pierced the Heart of our Savior as He saw the innocence of the little lambs He so loved ripped from them, from those sworn to protect them. It is among the greatest of sins, and to protect those who commit these atrocities, they likewise then share in this grave sin. I believe Pope Francis will continue to take every action he can. In the United States, the protection of these priests are no longer allowed if they can be found out, I know of no persons who tolerates their protection now that it has been made public. It sickens me, as does all sin; but upon our children, that makes me want to vomit. They should be in jail if found guilty. In their jail cell, they can seek God who loves unconditionally while gladly accepting the punishment they have rightly earned and ask for God’s forgiveness. If they are sincere, God who is infinitely merciful always forgives, they have the chance if they sin no more to regain Heaven, to live right, as does everyone; be certain however, that God is also infinitely just, they may suffer the pains of purgatory for thousands and thousands of years before entering Heaven. Christ was born for but one reason, to die. A God was born to give up every drop of His Blood in Gruesome Agony to ransom every person, that they might be ransomed from sin; to eternal life, none are excluded. This is the message of love; yes, unfortunately we are free to choose evil and the terrible pain it causes others and ourselves, but we can turn and choose the Ultimate Good Who is God. To do what is right and holy,and find the way to perfect joy, perfect love; God.
    Then you say, God does not exist. He has proven He exist to me, in every physical sense I have. I cannot prove this to you. Neither, however, can you prove to me, without this machine that you exist, though chances are you do.

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