Upon reading this article, about the UN demanding a full disclosure of the Vatican files on sexual abuse committed by clergy and in institutions run by the Church, which they claim occurred “on an unbelievable scale”, I can’t help but wonder who they think they are. The tone of the article, but seemingly also of the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child, is extremely tendentious, taking for a fact that the level of sexual abuse was many times higher in the Church than anywhere else, and that there exists a systematic cover-up of these cases. The measures taken by the Holy See under Pope Benedict XVI, and by individual bishops’ conferences and religious bodies in many parts of the world (although, admittedly, not everywhere) are conveniently ignored.
There is no vast repository of files, somewhere in a vault in the Vatican. There are policies, and the UN does not need any disclosure to find those out. If they want to know about individual cases, they should contact Church entities on a much lower level, where much of the groundwork is and will be done. I am sure the Holy See will be happy to do what is needed, but many may be disappointed by the relative lack of shocking revelations, especially when held up against the numbers from other institutions and member nations.
Much has changed for the better, although much more still needs to change. The UN would do better in demanding full disclosure from all its member nations and the institutions she herself runs, instead of focussing on a single one. That is bad policy and popular opinion driving actions of an institution which should be above that to serve the world.
The article lauds Pope Francis for taking steps to combat corruption and says he should do the same with regards to sexual abuse. Pope Benedict took the first steps in that tough line, but is still almost universally reviled for apparently not doing so. I somehow don’t think that Pope Francis’ actions against sexual abuse, by themselves, will do much to make him popular. The world and popular opinion is much too simple for that: he seems a nice chap, and that makes him popular. His policies won’t make much of a difference for most.
Am I saying that the UN has no right to know? Well, in a sense. It has the right to know, but no more than anyone else has. Information should not be shared just because the UN says so, but because it is the right thing to do and the people should know. The UN will say that is the same thing. Many clearer minds will say it is not.