U.N. grilling: The Vatican should step up action against abuse

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A United Nations investigation of the Catholic Church’s clergy sex-abuse scandal should prompt the Vatican to be more transparent and Pope Francis to crack down harder on the abusers’ enablers.

An international human rights panel grilled Vatican representatives last month in Geneva about the church’s lukewarm response to the child sex-abuse scandal.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests and other groups argue that the Vatican is not honoring its agreement to abide by the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. The U.N. committee demanded that the Vatican open its files on sex abuse cases — which it has not done — and improve the transparency of how it handles such cases.

The U.N. panel and other independent, secular bodies must investigate, publicize and prosecute not only the abusers but also those who shielded them. The Vatican should routinely release its files on abuse cases, and Pope Francis, who has been commended for his open style and symbolic gestures, must pay more attention to the scandal.

The pontiff needs to punish the enablers — church authorities who shielded abusive clergy and moved them from parish to parish, instead of turning them over to authorities. Such behavior suggests that some church authorities viewed themselves as above the law and saw child abuse as a sin but not a crime.

Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley recently announced the creation of a Vatican commission aimed at protecting children from abuse — the new pope’s first substantive move on the issue. The day after the Vatican testified to the U.N. panel, it released a document showing Pope Benedict XVI had defrocked nearly 400 priests in 2011 and 2012 for molesting children.

This is all good. Transparency should be strengthened and tough action should be the order of the day in the Vatican.

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