VATICAN CITY (RNS) As Vatican representatives prepare to testify before a United Nations inquiry into torture next week, a senior official warned investigators that it would be “deceptive” to link torture with the pedophilia scandals that have swept the Catholic Church.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the chief Vatican spokesman, briefs reporters on Monday (Feb. 24) about the new department Pope Francis created to overhaul the Holy See's finances. RNS photo by David Gibson

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the chief Vatican spokesman, briefs reporters on Monday (Feb. 24) about the new department Pope Francis created to overhaul the Holy See’s finances. RNS photo by David Gibson


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Friday (May 2) the Convention Against Torture, endorsed by the Vatican in 2002, was one of the most important in the U.N.’s ambit.

Lombardi also stressed in a statement the Holy See’s “strong commitment against any form of torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.”

But he urged the U.N. committee, which is holding three weeks of hearings in Geneva, to resist pressure from nongovernmental organizations “with a strong ideological character” that are intent on including the sexual abuse of minors in a discussion about torture.

“The extent to which this is deceptive and forced is clear to any unbiased observer,” Lombardi said.

But the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which represents 18,000 victims, said Friday that hundreds of children and adults were still being “sexually violated, tortured and assaulted” by Catholic priests.

“Torture and violence can be subtle and manipulative. Or it can be blatant and brutal,” said SNAP President Barbara Blaine in a statement. “Either way, it’s horribly destructive to the human spirit, especially when inflicted on the young by the powerful, on the truly devout by the allegedly holy.”

“Nothing has succeeded in getting Vatican officials to stop this violence,” she added.

In a separate inquiry in February, the U.N. watchdog for the human rights of the child issued a scathing report ordering the Holy See to open its files on clergy who had “concealed their crimes” and called on the church to remove suspected or known abusers.

In a rare interview in March, Pope Francis defended the church saying it had acted with “transparency and responsibility” on the issue.

In its submission, the group Catholic Voices USA told the U.N. committee Friday the church had become “the global model for the legal safeguarding of children” and church volunteers were often risking their lives to help the world’s vulnerable.

“Were this committee to label the Holy See a sponsor of torture, the results would be bloody and tragic,” Ashley McGuire, from the organization’s advisory board, said in Geneva on Friday.

Meanwhile the Vatican’s permanent observer to the U.N. in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, said in a newspaper interview Friday the incidence of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy was “the lowest” among all the professions, including teachers and judges.

He said suggestions that the church was some kind of “incubator” for abusive clergy were “dishonest and illogical.”

The pope recently established a committee headed by Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley to look at the issue of sex abuse and the committee’s eight members have been holding their first meeting at the Vatican this week.

YS/AMB END MCKENNA

14 Comments

  1. If they have an ounce of self awareness, these Vatican spokesmen must realize that such comparisons with torture would not reflect favorably upon them.

    However unethical it may be to torture an enemy combatant for information, it’s much worse to torture an innocent child for no other reason than your own sick pleasure.

  2. I can look up all the news articles world wide. I have been told that my faith is just as guilty as any other. Additionally, Silvano Tomasi, said in a newspaper interview Friday the incidence of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy was “the lowest” among all the professions, including teachers and judges. I just don’t see this. There are literally THOUSANDS of catholic abuse cases for every ONE of another religion. Schools are increasing but still not half as many as catholic, (Worldwide). With the school system, employees are removed immediately and permanently. They are identified and no longer eligible for jobs which have contact with children. It seems to be the best way to handle ALL abuse situations.

  3. Yet more inhumanity from the Catholic Church.
    What a pit of disgrace.

    May this cruel indifference to suffering and horror lead to an awakening of secularism and humanitarianism. These barbaric institutions simply must die off.

  4. “the Vatican’s permanent observer to the U.N. in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, said in a newspaper interview Friday the incidence of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy was “the lowest” among all the professions, including teachers and judges.”

    Talk is cheap. Show me the damned numbers and sources!

    • @ramswrsw,

      The point is not the number of Pedophiles! Good grief!

      The point is the coverup which continues today.
      Pedophiles are protected by the Catholic Church instead of being turned over to the authorities – Cardinal Bernie Law, the godfather of the Boston priest pedophile ring, has a cushy little condo in the Vatican. He should be defrocked and sent to prison.

      Other institutions hand their pedophiles over to the police as soon as they are discovered !!

  5. Sister Maureen Paul Turlish

    Cardinal O’Malley, Rev. Federico Lombardi: What is it about the UN convention’s definition of torture that you don’t understand?

    “Ignorance,” “denial?” Come on Cardinal O’Malley. This is the Roman Catholic Church where every thought, word or action having to with Sex was/is considered a Mortal Sin. What about the Lord’s injunctions? What about the Moral Law? Raping a child was what? A boundary violation? an indiscretion?

    Sadly, the Roman Catholic Church has not responded to civil laws in most countries including the United States and “moral obligations” have been ignored as though they were nonexistent.

    O’Malley said the church’s response shouldn’t depend on legal obligations, but rather “moral obligations” to report suspected abuse.

    And statements like, “In time, we will propose initiatives to encourage….,” is simply not good enough.

    Anyone who has anything at all to do with children should be, ipso facto, a mandated reporter where sexual abuse is concerned.

    Moreover, there should be be criminal felony statutes in place for those found to have knowingly failed to report an individual about whom they know or have reason to believe or suspect questionable behavior concerning children.

    We will see the reality of a “changing culture at the top,” only if and when there are concrete actions following the quotes. The press releases look great and I’m sure the sound bites are every bit as impressive but actions speak louder than words as far as “holding church officials [bishops] accountable for not reporting suspected abuse” is concerned. Nor have previous popes held bishops responsible for putting hundreds and probably thousands of children in harm’s way by transferring credibly accused, known or convicted sexual predators to other parishes and other dioceses.

    People do have hope with Pope Francis but the clock is ticking.

    The bottom line is that no religious denomination, no synagogue, mosque, storefront or sect can or should be depended on to police themselves regarding the protection of society’s most vulnerable. We’ve seen how badly they’ve failed over the last 50 to 100 years.

    Protecting children with better laws is society’s responsibility. Statutes of Limitation on the sexual abuse of children, both criminally and civilly, have to be removed going forward. So far, bishops and State Catholic Conferences in the United States have viciously opposed and often misrepresented more adequate legislation having to do with the sexual abuse of children in states where such laws have been proposed. Colorado, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania are just a few such states.

    Shame on them.

    Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
    Advocate for Survivors and Legislative Reform
    New Castle, Delaware
    maturlishmdsnd@yahoo.com
    CatholicWhistleblowers.com

    • I took you seriously until you said “every thought, word or action having to with Sex was/is considered a Mortal Sin.”

      When you start with complete nonsense, don’t expect people to take you seriously.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments with many links may be automatically held for moderation.