Vatican urges sex abuse critics not to stay “fossilized in the past”

May 7, 2014
(Marie Collins (L), member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, looks at Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley during their first briefing at the Holy See press office at the Vatican May 3, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)

(Marie Collins (L), member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, looks at Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley new at the Holy See press office at the Vatican May 3, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)

The Vatican told critics of its sexual abuse record on Tuesday that it had developed model child protection policies over the last decade and that its accusers should not stay “fossilized in the past” when attitudes were different.

Addressing the United Nations Committee on Torture, the papal ambassador in Geneva admitted the Roman Catholic Church had in the past protected priests who molested minors but had not done so in years because it understood the issue better.

Archbishop Silforget vio Tomasi was responding to questions from the committee, which grilled him on the Vatican’s record on Monday and called for a permanent investigation system to end what it called a “climate of impunity” within the Church.

Groups representing victims of clerical sexual abuse said after Monday’s hearing that predator priests were still being moved to other parishes, sometimes to other countries, to protect them against possible criminal charges.

Referring to that accusation, Tomasi said: “We must not be fossilized in the past.” The “culture of the time” in the 1960s and 1970s viewed such offenders as people who could be treated psychologically rather than as criminals, he said.

“Unfortunately, that was a mistake, as experience has shown. We have to appreciate the evolution of the culture and … the enormous amount of work that has been done in 10 years by an institution called the Catholic Church.”

Barbara Blaine, founder and president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), accused Tomasi of dodging the issue by claiming the Church simply went along with what was the common view of experts decades ago.

“That is ludicrous. Everyone knew that raping children was a crime and it should have been reported to the police,” she said.

Read the full story by Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Heneghan here.

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