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New Shadow Report Details How Sexual Abuse Problems in Catholic Church Represent an International Crisis

October 8, 2002

CFFC requests meeting with Vatican officials to discuss findings Meetings to proceed with
Committee on the Rights of the Child

(Rome) – Today, there is little confidence that the Vatican will adequately respond to the enormous worldwide child sex abuse crisis within the Catholic church. In fact, there is ample evidence that the church hierarchy is attempting to minimize the scandal by defining it as a problem largely confined to the United States. There have even been attempts to spin the problem as one that is a result of progressive thinking in the church and that it would disappear by priestly adherence to a more conservative church line. This ignores the systemic problems that exist and the cover up by senior church officials who have yet to be held accountable for their actions.

Therefore, Catholics for a Free Choice released The Holy See and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a report that illustrates the international scope of the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic church. CFFC called for a meeting with Vatican officials to discuss the report and its implications as well as recommendations to solve the crisis.

“This report shows that sexual abuse in the Catholic church is not an American crisis. It is a global crisis with victims around the world,” said Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice. “Because of the scope of the crisis, the church needs to respond now and develop a plan of action. We have a number of recommendations to present to them on how they should do that,” she said.

“Working from our status as an accredited non-governmental organization, CFFC prepared this ‘shadow report’ to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child,” said Kissling.  “That committee’s mandate is to monitor signatories’ compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The Holy See acceded to this convention in 1990, and thereby pledged to uphold its provisions.  Sadly, the report illustrates the Holy See’s failure to effectively implement the Convention in the twelve years since its accession. We hope to find out why and provide recommendations to remedy this failure.”

In the report, Kissling said CFFC is asking the Holy See to:

  • Apologize to the victims for the abuse and the cover-up
  • Cooperate with local civil authorities in reporting, investigating, punishing, and following-up on cases of clergy child sexual abuse
  • Rescind the newly-instituted requirements of secrecy in the Catholic church related to these cases, and
  • Punish abusers to the full extent of their own law

CFFC is asking the Committee on the Rights of the Child to:

  • Insist that the Holy See submit a full reporting of the magnitude of the problem of clergy child sexual abuse
  • Demand from the Holy See a concrete plan on how it will deal with reparations for past abuse and prevention of abuse, and
  • Require that other States Parties to the Convention report accurately on the abuse in their own countries.

Through the report, CFFC is urging member states to:

  • Work together with officials of the Catholic church at regional and national levels to protect children
  • Report on the abuse in the countries when they meet with the Committee, and
  • Refuse to allow the church’s institutional secrecy that has resulted in the scandal continuing unchecked for so many years

Kissling was joined in Rome by:

Dr. Jose Barba-Martin, a professor of the history of ideas and humanities at the Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico (ITAM), is one of several men to come forward to report to the Vatican that the Rev. Marciel Maciel, founder and leader of the conservative order the Legionaires of Christ, had sexually abused them when they were students in schools run by the order.  

Roberto J. Blancarte, a professor-researcher and academic coordinator at the Center of Sociological Studies of El Colegio de Mexico and Foreign Associate Professor of the Groupe des Sociologies des Religions et de la Laicite (Paris, France).

Imma Battaglia, President DIGAYPROJECT Onlus, Italian Gay Rights Movement and Organizer, Rome World Gay Pride 2000

Simon W. Kennedy, an attorney from Ireland who has tried cases of Catholic clergy sexual abuse in Ireland.  

Sara Morello,  a Senior Associate at Catholics for a Free Choice, who is a canon lawyer with experience addressing church law and clergy sex abuse in the U.S.  

Mark Furnish, an attorney in New York who was sexually abused by a Roman Catholic priest as a teenager who is now an outspoken advocate for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) was also in Rome as a member of the delegation that will meet with the UNCRC.

Said Furnish, “There is nothing I can do now to change the fact that I was molested by a Catholic priest as a teenager–nor is there any satisfactory explanation as to why the Church, who knew about my abuser’s patterns with children before I was even born, did absolutely nothing to protect me, The same holds true for all the victims in the United States. But the Church can do something right now to prevent future generations of children from suffering sexual and spiritual abuse. I urge the Catholic Church to break the silence, come clean with their knowledge of past cases and do everything in their power to stop this tragedy once and for all. The children of the world deserve no less.”

Wednesday, the CFFC-led delegation will meet with the Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva to discuss the findings and recommendations of the report. Catholics for a Free Choice will continue to meet with and lobby non-governmental organizations worldwide, member states at the United Nations and United Nations as well as human rights and child protection organizations until the Holy See is held accountable and proper action taken to stop the abuse of children.

Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC) is a non-governmental organization with special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. It shapes and advances sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment to women’s well-being, and respect and affirm the moral capacity of women and men to make sound decisions about their lives. Through discourse, education and advocacy, CFFC works in the United States and internationally to infuse these values into public policy, community life, feminist analysis, and Catholic social thinking and teaching.