UN Report Blasts Catholic Church for Systemic Child Abuse Coverups

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  February 5, 2014

UN Report Blasts Catholic Church for Systemic Child Abuse Coverups

Chairperson Kirsten Sandberg discusses the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child report outlining massive allegations of child abuse coverups and its demands The Vatican take action to hold guilty parties accountable
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Kirsten Sandberg is the chairperson of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. She is a Norwegian jurist and expert on the rights of children, as well as a Professor of Law at the University of Oslo Faculty of Law. Sandberg also served as Acting Supreme Court Justice in the Supreme Court of Norway 2010–2011.


JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

On Wednesday, the UN's Committee on the Rights of the Child blasted the Vatican for being more concerned with avoiding scandal than addressing clergy child abuse and refusing to cooperate with law enforcement. The UN panel demanded the Catholic Church immediately remove clergy known or suspected of child molestation and report them to authorities. The Holy See defended itself following the publication of the report.

Now joining us to discuss this is Kirsten Sandberg. She's the chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Thank you so much for joining us.


NOOR: So this is a devastating report. You know, this is, like, the main story on most major networks right now. Talk about exactly what your findings were.

SANDBERG: Well, there've been tens of thousands of children abused worldwide for several decades. What we cover in our report is the last 19 years, since they last reported to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. But it's really a huge problem. So many victims all over the world.

NOOR: And how has this been allowed to go on for so long? We've heard reports of this all over the U.S. for decades, really.

SANDBERG: Yeah. It's been sort of swept under the carpet by the Church itself. And priests have been moved from parish to parish without any notification to the authorities above them, or they have been notified, bishops have been notified, but they have asked the notifier to keep silent. There've been lots of stories like this.

Lately, the Holy See has started to react.

NOOR: What's your response to the Holy See's defense of how they've handled this?


ARCHBISHOP SILVANO TOMASI, VATICAN REPRESENTATIVE: The Holy See has carefully delineated policies and procedures designed to help eliminate such abuse.


SANDBERG: Well, they're defending themselves now, because they've started to take some measures. They have given guidelines to all bishops that they should cooperate with law enforcement authorities and things like that, which is very good. So that's really a positive beginning, I think.

But we really need to see the results on the ground. And we haven't yet got all the data from the Holy See, so we don't yet know what they have been doing and how they have actually reacted. They have also covered up this for many years.

NOOR: So you're saying even without all the data, you already know of tens of thousands of cases. How big could this be? Like, what is the most--and what is the most disturbing aspect of this report for you?

SANDBERG: The most disturbing aspect is all the victims that have gone through this, and also reading about all those people inside or outside the Church that have tried to do something about it again and again and again and they've never managed to come through with it, at least in earlier years. I think in the later years it's been possible to get through and to have things done gradually. But still in parts of the world things have not come to the surface yet, so we don't know whether it's still going on, for instance in Eastern Europe, and we don't know whether it's still going on also in the countries where it has been revealed, because a lot of this might still be happening but without anybody knowing.

Mandatory reporting would be really something that we ask for. That's that all priests that come across this should--or other personnel, staff in the churches, should have a duty to report to the domestic authorities in the country if things like that are discovered.

NOOR: And what's the reaction been so far to this report?

SANDBERG: Well, there's been a lot of support worldwide from victims and from others. And the Holy See, as far as I've understood, are quite reluctant to accept our recommendations. But I think maybe they will, because they seem quite open to this in the dialog we had with the Holy See.

NOOR: And so there's mounting evidence, with this report and other stories we know, that this is a massive, serious problem. Your panel's conclusions are nonbinding. What are the next steps going to have to be to bring about serious change?

SANDBERG: I think the Holy See itself has to take this on board. And as I said, they have already started. They're now--or they have decided to set up a commission in the Holy See. And let's hope that will be an independent commission that will manage to go into these cases and investigate what's actually been going on and how much has been covered up by the Holy See. And then the Holy See needs to take seriously all our recommendations, and also to, for instance, give compensation to victims. I know they've done that in some cases or in some areas, but they should do it, I think, worldwide.

NOOR: Kristen Sandberg, thank you so much for joining us.

She's the chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

SANDBERG: Thank you.

NOOR: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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