Pope Francis has sought to bring light to the church’s mission of healing since being elected to the papacy. He has forgone the papal palace and pomp that is usually associated with his position, and has publicly criticized the church’s fixation on issues such as gay marriage. He has gained massive popularity, being deemed by media outlets such as TIME Magazine as the “People’s Pope.”
However, the Pope’s growing popularity did not stop the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) from delivering on Wednesday a report that accused the Vatican of adopting policies that allow for the systematic rape and molestation of children by priests. It demanded that any clergy member suspected of child abuse be immediately removed from their positions, and that the Holy See should open all files on members whose crimes have been concealed.
The panel in charge of creating the document was comprised of eighteen experts in the area of child welfare. In direct language, they condemned teachings and practices of the Catholic Church that they considered as being in conflict with the principles of human rights and child welfare.
In the same report, they also criticized the Vatican for its attitudes toward contraception and abortion, claiming that they should change their laws to ensure rights and access to health care for children.
While the UN’s report is non-binding, that did not prevent them from asking that Pope Francis use the commission created in December to investigate all cases of child sexual abuse, “as well as the conduct of the Catholic hierarchy in dealing with them,” and to adopt reforms by 2017.
Among examples of the Church’s neglect and failure to provide justice, the report cited Ireland’s Magdalene laundries scandal—Catholic-run laundries where, between 1922 and 1996, nearly 10,000 ‘fallen women’ were required to do unpaid manual labour.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, head of the Holy See’s delegation to the United Nations in Geneva, observed that the report failed to take into account “a series of changes for the protection of children” that have recently been made by the Vatican.
“I regret to see in some points of the concluding observations an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom,” Tomasi said.
Although the Vatican has agreed to look over the findings of the report, it has denied any attempt at covering up a scandal and has expressed that some of the church’s moral teachings are “non-negotiable.”
The report draws attention to one of the largest flaws of the Catholic Church’s image, and various victim groups have welcomed the findings with open arms. They believe that it will push the Church towards further investigating past crimes and that it will bring ‘predator priests’ to justice.