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Geneva, March 16, 2010 — The Vatican’s record on child abuse was criticized today at the United Nations Human Rights Council. Highlighting the Vatican’s repeated and ongoing efforts to cover up evidence of child abuse by priests, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) accused the Vatican of violating its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Keith Porteous Wood, who presented IHEU’s statement to the Human Rights Council, said: “Billions of dollars and euros have already been paid out in respect of thousands of victims in the USA and Ireland. News of further abuse has since appeared in Austria, the Netherlands and now Germany – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. How much more evidence of children’s suffering is needed before the UN fulfills its responsibility to hold the Vatican to account?

“The Vatican is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), but has contravened several of its articles, and is over a decade behind in its reporting. It has facilitated repeat offending by shielding child abusers from prosecuting authorities and shifting them to new communities. Major investigations in the USA and Ireland have been obstructed by the Church. All this has led to abusers being allowed to continue offending and escaping justice, while their victims despair — some even committing suicide.”

The Vatican was first criticized at the UN Human Rights Council by IHEU in September 2009. “When we raised this issue at the UN last year, the Church blamed everyone else, but promised a paltry one paragraph on clerical abuse in its report to the UN,” said Porteous Wood. “That mandatory report, already 12 years overdue and promised last September, has still not been filed with the UN.”

In its statement at the Human Rights Council, the IHEU called on the Vatican to make three major changes in dealing with investigations into priestly child abuse:

  1. To bring the territory of Vatican City state, to which it has instructed all abuse accusations are to be sent, under the jurisdiction of the CRC;
  2. To open up its files and records to CRC and state investigators; and
  3. To instruct all its representatives to cooperate with legal investigating authorities worldwide.

IHEU is the world union of more than 100 Humanist organizations from more than 40 countries. Founded in 1952, IHEU is an international NGO with Special Consultative Status with the United Nations, General Consultative Status at the Council of Europe, Observer Status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and operational relations with UNESCO.

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For more information contact Matt Cherry at

The IHEU statement to the UN Human Rights Council is shown below.

International Humanist and Ethical Union
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: 13th Session (1 to 26 March 2010)
Speaker: IHEU Representative, Keith Porteous Wood: Monday 15 March 2010
Agenda Item 4: Matters requiring the attention of the Council

Child Abuse and the Holy See
Mr President
At the 12th session of the Council we noted contravention by the Holy See of several articles of [the Convention on the Rights of the Child] the CRC, and cited evidence of the part played by the Holy See in the cover up of [the long-running and ubiquitous problem of] child abuse by priests and servants of the Catholic Church.[1] But the distinguished delegate of the Holy See, in exercising their right of reply, conspicuously failed to deny our allegations, disingenuously attempting to point the finger of blame elsewhere.[2] He claimed that their report to the CRC, then being finalised would devote “a paragraph … to child abuse by catholic clergy”. We note however that still, six months later, that report now 13 years overdue, has still yet to be filed.

But what a discourtesy to [this Council and to] the tens of thousands of child victims to suggest that any single paragraph could explain, far less excuse, decades of abuse in respect of which billions of dollars and euros in compensation have already been paid, and investigations in new countries are regularly being announced, [e.g. in Austria, Germany and the Netherlands.]

The claim by the representative of the Holy See that they “were putting their house in order” is not borne out by the facts. [In Ireland, the Papal authorities attempted to obstruct the Murphy Inquiry into the cover up of child abuse by the Dublin diocese,[3] and has refused to cooperate with an inquiry by the Irish Foreign Affairs Committee, refusing to respond to two letters from the Committee to the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, inviting him to appear before it.][4]

To protect children and bring perpetrators to justice, we call on the Holy See:

  1. to remove its reservation to the CRC to bring the territory of Vatican City state, to which it has instructed all abuse accusations are to be sent, under the jurisdiction of the CRC,
  2. to open up its files and records to CRC and state investigators, and
  3. to instruct all its representatives to cooperate with legal investigating authorities worldwide, something that they have signally failed to do in Ireland.

Thank you sir.

Note: the words in [brackets] could not be spoken in the two minutes available.

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[1] http://www.iheu.org/iheu-calls-vatican-recognize-its-responsibilities-children-and-under-un-convention
[2] http://www.iheu.org/holy-see-responds-iheu-criticism
[3] http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Ahern%20Receives%20Dublin%20Archdiocese%20Report
[4] http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2010/0216/1224264554852.html

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