A Holy See delegation has concluded a hearing at the United Nations on implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child, describing it as an “important and fruitful, interactive dialogue” on dealing with child protection.
Maltese Bishop Charles Scicluna, who has long experience of dealing with abuse cases as the former Promoter of Justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told Vatican Radio the Holy See shares the principles of the Convention and is committed to adequately addressing all issues and concerns regarding cases of abuse within the Catholic Church.
Heading the Vatican delegation on Thursday was Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva.
Philippa Hitchen spoke with Bishop Scicluna to find out more about the day’s events in Geneva:
A: It was grueling, in the sense it was a very long session and it was very engaging….the rapporteur had important concerns to express and we had a very important and fruitful interactive dialogue….I think that we share the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and I think that we put out in a very clear, coherent way to the international community that the Holy See “gets it”, that as a sovereign state that the Holy See is implementing the Convention and that the Holy See, as the central organ of the Catholic Church, is promoting the values of the Convention and that canon law, as an expression of the jurisdiction of the Holy See, is also constantly being revised, as was the case in 2010, so that procedures and substantive issues are addressed adequately.
Q: Among the concerns are the accusations that the Vatican has not released information about some of the abuse cases – how have you responded to that?
A: It was not within the remit of the Committee to ask for individual cases, even if there is one individual case which is within the remit of the Convention and that is the case of a diplomat who is a citizen of Vatican City State and allegations concerning whom are under investigation and that was addressed openly by the head of the delegation, nuncio Archbishop Tomasi. With other cases, the constant response of the Holy See has been that these are dealt with on a local level and they should be addressed at local level
Q: Victims groups, survivors networks, say this however is not responding to their needs for transparency at the highest level. How do you answer their allegations?
A: I think there are two important elements of this which are transparency and accountability. And I think that transparency and accountability have to start on the local level. Concerning procedures on the level of the Holy See, I think that the parties concerned to every single and individual procedure, have every right to have access to all the information necessary for their defense, for their exercise of rights under the system we operate on.
Q: You’ve been following this issue within the Vatican for many years now. Do you feel that this hearing marks a turning point in any way?
A: It does bring great visibility to concerns and issues on the international level but it is and has been an occasion where the Holy See not only listens to concerns, but publicly expresses its commitment towards the values of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, including the interest of the child as a paramount concern in any decision-making process.
Q: Will you be producing any kind of further statements, any kind of follow-up from this meeting?
A: That would depend on the Secretary of State. This is a routine report that is actually part of the Convention. And so the Secretariat of State follows the obligations undertaken by the Holy See in giving reports, receiving issues, responding to issues, and certainly we have undertaken, as a delegation, to communicate concerns to the authorities in the Holy See.