I have added a serious new part to my page "Child Abuse by Christian Priests: Horror, Paedophilia and the Clergy" by Vexen Crabtree (2009):
The Human Rights Council of the United Nations met in Geneva on 2009 Sep 22, where the Catholic Church was challenged over its response to its child abuse horrors. The Vatican's official UN observer was present, Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi. This religious body's presence at the UN HRC is nowadays matched by the non-religious secular representative of atheism and suchlike, the International Humanist and Ethical Union, who in this instance was Mr Keith Porteous Wood, who is also the director of the UK's National Secular Society, a body that lobbies for politics and religion to be kept seperate.
Keith Porteous Wood set the context by recalling that in 1990 "the Holy See acceded to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It submitted its first and only report in 1994 - about which CRC expressed several areas of concern. But since then - nothing". The RCC has breached five of its Articles. Some of the most serious complaints which he then iterated were that the Church had not taken claims of child abuse seriously, had not acted on cases that were clearly within its power to act upon, had accused many victims of making up stories and has moved offenders to one place to another instead of reporting them to authorities as instructed to do.
Bishop Silvano Maria Tomasi's reply contained some quite odd reasoning. Some of his arguments were that actually, homosexuals were to blame, that abuse has occurred in other institutions too, not just in the Catholic Church, and that the church has acted on at least two occasions by issuing statements to its priests. Probably as a result of continued revelations of cover-ups and scandals, the Archbishop also mentions that the Catholic Church, in its second report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, will devote an entire paragraph to the problem of child abuse by the clergy. I hope it is a truly efficiently-written paragraph, as I do know how busy the Church is tackling other problems, such as the evils of contraception. The Vatican's defence of child abuse by its staff rests on a few further points that Archbishop Tomasi raises:
- Most cases of child abuse are by relatives of the child in question. Also, pupils in public schools are also given 'unwanted sexual attention' by staff.
- Protestant Churches in the USA have more cases of child abuse by its clergy than do Catholics.
- Also, Jews have a higher rate of child abuse too.
This appalling and dismissive response not only misses the facts - the Archbishop was called to defend the Vatican against claims it had breached 5 Articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but instead spent most his time pointing out that Catholic priests were not the only ones at it. Not only that, but his comparison was misleading as, as the IHEU pointed out, there are far more Protestants in the USA than there are Catholics. When I first estimated that 3% of Christian priests were involved in recurring cases of child abuse, I thought that this number might be too horrible to be true. The Archbishop, however, actually agreed:
“From available research we now know that in the last fifty years somewhere between 1.5% and 5% of the catholic clergy has been involved in sexual abuse cases.”
Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi (2009)
I am quite sure that the Archbishop, given his other dismissive defences, is himself repeating a conservative claim of the numbers of clergy involved, and I suspect with horror that the number might therefore be over five percent.
Something which highlights the odd and elusive arguments of the Archbishop, is the response of a Rabbi as reported in The Guardian:
"Representatives from other religions were dismayed by the Holy See's attempts to distance itself from controversy by pointing the finger at other faiths. Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, head of the New York Board of Rabbis, said: "Comparative tragedy is a dangerous path on which to travel. All of us need to look within our own communities. Child abuse is sinful and shameful and we must expel them immediately from our midst.""
His condemnation of child abusers is clear and his comment is directed solely at those who commit such crimes. He didn't pass the buck, play down the problem or indicate that homosexuality was the real problem, as opposed to paedophile priests. His quick response shames the Archbishop's politics and games.