Once again the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has loudly and clearly insisted that the Vatican and Pope Francis remove all priest child abusers and report them to local law enforcement.
The committee further insisted the Vatican open all associated records so that Bishops and other church officials who have contributed to the problem of priest abuse can be held accountable.
This second announcement came May 23, 2014 and this time around, the U.N. added something very startling to the ongoing debate, it said that the crimes abusive priests inflict upon child victims amount to torture.
Vatican did not like this assertion and immediately issued a statement saying that their actions did not violate the anti-torture treaty. In response came a rebuke from Felice Gaer, the committee’s vice chairwoman. “You have the answer in front of you.”
Admitting that rape and sexual violation of children often equates to torture may help victims achieve justice. In many countries the statutes of limitations make it impossible for victims to pursue their cases in courts. There are no statutes of limitations when it comes to torture. Still, it will be a difficult legal road for victims of sexual abuse by priests to travel.
In the May 23rd statement the U.N. committee also reiterated its position that the Vatican is responsible for all priests, the good ones and the bad ones. If this were not the case, then how could the Vatican continue to protect Jozef Wesolowski, who has been accused of sexual abuse in the Dominican Republic? The archbishop was transferred to the Vatican, where he is under investigation. The Vatican resisted applications for his extradition to Poland, his native country.
I wish we could believe, as the Vatican and Pope Francis would like us to, that these devastating crimes against children are “part of the past.” But let us face the truth – these crimes have not stopped, they are still going on, NOW. And so these crimes will be part of the future too, as victims find their voices and the strength to come forward. This can take several years, as was the case in my own life.
I was 52 years old before the protective walls my subconscious had built around the pain of abuse came tumbling down and I could face the fact that at age seven my parish priest raped me. Ask anyone who has been raped or tortured how long it took them to come to terms with the terrible crime and they will tell you it was a very long time before they could face and talk about it.
Most Catholics would like to think this era of priest abuse in the Church is behind us. The silence today does not mean that the ongoing sexual violation and torture of children is over. The truth is, it continues, and it will be some time before all victims’ voices catch up with their pain and ability to speak out.
Catholic officials try desperately to claim this crisis is in the past. It is not. Clergy sex crimes and cover-ups are still happening on a nearly daily basis—locally and globally. Here are just a few recent cases of alleged clergy sex crimes from 2012 to 2014: In St. Louis, Father Joseph Jiang, faced new charges of sexually violating a boy and sexually abusing a teenage girl. In Davis, California, Father Hector Coria was arrested for “Unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor and oral copulation.” In San Juan, Puerto Rico, a suspended priest was arrested by federal authorities for allegedly transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and sexual trafficking of minors. In Sacramento, California, Father Uriel Ojeda admitted to sexually abusing a girl beginning when she was 13 years old.
We have a great opportunity to protect the children of today from a lifetime of living with the terrible effects of priest abuse. It’s a time to be vigilant, not passive, to blow the whistle and report priests who cross boundaries to civil authorities. I wish it were over. It is not. Until it is, organizations such as the UN and Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) will continue to fight for the an end to the epidemic and for the healing of victims.