U.N. body says U.S. lax on clerical sex abuse cases

Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:49pm EST
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A U.N. committee has accused U.S. legal authorities of failing to fully pursue cases of child sex abuse in religious groups, an issue especially troubling the Roman Catholic Church.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child wrote this month that it was "deeply concerned" to find widespread sexual abuse by clerics and staff of religious institutions and "a lack of measures ... to properly investigate cases and prosecute them".

Britain's National Secular Society, which drew attention on Monday to the little-noticed report, said it hoped the Catholic pope to be elected next month would open Church files to help prosecute as yet undiscovered cases of clerical sexual abuse.

The scandal of predator priests has haunted the pontificate of Pope Benedict, who will resign on Feb 28. The pope has apologized for the abuse and met victims in several countries, but cases and damning internal files are still coming to light.

After years of legal battles, the Los Angeles archdiocese bowed to a court order last month and released 12,000 pages of files showing its former head, Cardinal Roger Mahony, had sent accused abusers out of state to avoid justice in the 1980s.

"The committee is deeply concerned at information of sexual abuse committed by clerics and leading members of certain faith-based organizations and religious institutions on a massive and long-term scale," said the report, which gave no details.

It said it also found a "lack of measures taken by (U.S. legal authorities) to properly investigate cases and prosecute those accused" and urged them to order law enforcement officials to step up efforts to uncover and bring charges against abusers.

NEW POPE   Continued...