UN: Vatican child rights report 13 years overdue
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By Frank Jordans
July 15, 2010 / Associated Press
GENEVA — The Vatican has failed to send the United Nations a report on child rights that is now almost 13 years overdue, the head of a U.N. panel has told The Associated Press.
Like all countries that have signed the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Vatican is required to submit regular reports on its efforts to safeguard child rights.
But the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, despite sending repeated reminders, has received no explanation from the Holy See for why it missed a 1997 deadline, according to the committee's chairwoman Yanghee Lee. In the years since, the Vatican has come under intense scrutiny over its handling of child sex abuse allegations around the world and recently admitted that up to one in 20 priests may be implicated.
"I've made contact with the Holy See on several occasions," Lee said in a recent telephone interview. "I haven't received anything."
Officials at the Vatican's mission in Geneva declined comment Thursday, saying the Catholic city state's envoy to the U.N., Silvano Tomasi, was unavailable.
Tomasi refused to discuss the report last month, saying he was "only the messenger," not the author of the report.
A Vatican representative told the U.N. last year that the report was being "finalized as we speak."
Appearing before the U.N.'s Human Rights Council in September, Hubertus Matheus Van Megen said "a paragraph will be dedicated to the problem of child abuse by Catholic clergy."
The Vatican has faced claims that it has covered up clerical sex abuse around the world, such as by not investigating allegations or transferring accused priests to other duties without punishing them.
Van Megen told the Geneva-based council that the church was "very conscious of the seriousness of the problem" but insisted critics had misrepresented the situation.
"While many speak of child abuse as pedophilia, it would be more correct to speak of ephebophilia, being a homosexual attraction to adolescent males," he told the rights council. "Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80-90 percent belong to this sexual orientation minority, which is sexually engaged with adolescent boys between the age of 11 and 17 years old."
"From available research we know now that in the last 50 years somewhere between 1.5 and 5 percent of the Catholic clergy has been involved in sexual abuse cases," he said.
While the Vatican delivered an initial report in 1995, the second, third and fourth reports are now overdue, according to Lee. This puts it on a par with the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis. Only five Pacific minnow states — the Cook Islands, Nauru, Niue, Tuvalu and Tonga — have failed to deliver any kind of report.
Mongolia, Senegal and Togo, which also had a 1997 deadline, have since filed their second reports.
Lothar Krappmann, another member of the committee, said many governments see the reports as a nuisance that has little impact on the way they protect child rights.
"Still, in many cases the reports aren't pointless because they give non-governmental organizations the opportunity to pick up on themes and influence policy through public channels," Krappmann told The AP.
Lee, the committee chairwoman, said the treaty contains no penalties for countries that fail to deliver their reports on time — or even at all.
Video of Vatican representative at U.N. Human Rights Council http://bit.ly/HolySee5pct