Vatican Says U.N. Goes Too Far In Report

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Pope Francis looks on during his general audience at St Peter's square on January 22, 2014 at the Vatican. (Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis looks on during his general audience at St Peter's square on January 22, 2014 at the Vatican. (Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images)

A new United Nations report is bluntly critical of the Vatican, saying it has adopted polices that allowed priest to rape and molest tens of thousands of children over decades.

The widely anticipated report from the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child goes on to say that the Vatican is guilty of a "code of silence" that has "systematically" put the reputation of the church and offending priests over the protection of child victims.

The Vatican says the report goes too far when it also includes criticism of the church's teaching on conception and birth control, human sexuality and abortion.

That report comes as a Catholic-affiliated publisher in Poland issues a controversial book of Pope John Paul II's notes.

Vatican expert and journalist John Allen joins Here & Now's Robin Young to discuss both the U.N. report and the book.

Interview Highlights: John Allen

On reaction to the U.N. report

"I suspect reaction to it — both at the Vatican and in the wider Catholic world — is going to be mixed, because the cause of child protection here is bundled, as you indicated, with the culture wars. It also is basically telling the Vatican they need to repeal Catholic teaching on abortion, birth control and gay marriage. You know, my reaction to that as a journalist is, 'how to you spell non-starter.' You know, those things are just not going to happen. And I suspect there will be some backlash that will want to style this report somehow as driven more by politics than a real concern for the protection of kids."

On the impact of the U.N. report

"The child sexual abuse scandals in Catholicism are real, the need for reform is real. There still is a division in the church between reformers and those who are kind of in denial, and that’s true at the grassroots, it’s true of the leadership. This report was an opportunity to strengthen the hand of the reform cause by making very specific recommendations that would be hard to argue with. And the fear would be that by bundling this with the very divisive matters of the culture wars, you've given ammunition to those in denial, to say ‘eh, this is all politics.’"

On what happens when bishops don't report abuse

"The Vatican does have policies that say that if you get a credible accusation of abuse — you're a bishop — you've got to act on it. Now there are cases in which bishops haven't. I mean, we have a bishop in the Diocese of Kansas City in the United States, for example, who pled guilty to a criminal charge of failure to report and is still sitting there as the bishop of Kansas City. So the question is, what are the consequences for that kind of breakdown. What the U.N. panel said is, there have to be consequences and this new commission ought to lead the charge to create them. I think that’s something that even people within the church — certainly the reform wing of the church — would say is not only reasonable but urgently necessary."


This segment aired on February 5, 2014.


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