As Pope Benedict steps down, group asks U.N. to act on abuse

Thu Feb 28, 2013 12:58pm EST
 
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By Naomi O'Leary

ROME (Reuters) - On the final day of Pope Benedict's papacy, a victim support group asked the United Nations to censure the Vatican for failing to protect children from sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy.

Speaking at a press conference meters from the walls of the Vatican City on Thursday, the head of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said his group had made a formal submission to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child.

"It's a long submission of 30 pages based on government reports by five different nations," David Clohessy told reporters, surrounded by photographs of children he said were members of his organization, at the age they were abused.

"We hope that the U.N. speaks out very forcefully and says that the Vatican is in violation of the treaty that it agreed to honor."

The SNAP submission argues that the Holy See has violated the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which it signed in 1990, on four counts including a failure to cooperate with criminal investigations and failing to protect children.

The crisis over the abuse of children by clergy, which has bankrupted several U.S. dioceses, cost the Church billions in compensation claims worldwide and haunted it throughout Benedict's papacy, has returned as cardinals prepare to enter a conclave to elect the next pontiff.

Catholic activists have petitioned U.S. cardinal Roger Mahony, who shielded priests known to be abusers from legal scrutiny in the 1980s, to exclude himself from the election of the man Catholics consider Christ's vicar on earth.

Clohessy called on the next pontiff, expected to be in office by March 26, immediately to discipline bishops who have protected predatory priests in their dioceses.   Continued...

 
The faithful gather as they wait for Pope Benedict XVI to appear for the last time at the balcony of his summer residence in Castelgandolfo, south of Rome, February 28, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi