UN “deeply concerned” that US is failing to investigate, prosecute clergy sex crimes, cover ups
Statement by Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director
The United Nations leading voice on children’s rights has issued a stinging criticism of US law enforcement and US government agencies for their failure to investigate and prosecute clergy child sex offenders and bring church officials who have covered up these crimes to justice.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child issued their remarks in a report from Geneva saying they are “deeply concerned” about the lack of action by officials in the US concerning crimes that have taken place on a “massive and long-term scale.”
Although the Committee is concerned about crimes and cover ups taking place in other faith communities across the United States, it is the Catholic Church where the documentation and criminal evidence is overwhelming, incontrovertible and wide spread.
The Committee, of course, is right and the criticism is long overdue.
What other organization could withstand shattering headlines, year after year, in virtually every major prosecution district across the United States concerning the concealment and transfer of child sex offenders by its senior management, often crossing state and international boundaries, and it would result in no federal investigations, not a single hearing on Capitol Hill, and no denunciations from the White House? The United States, after all, even has an official ambassador to the Vatican and recognizes the Holy See as an actual government. What other foreign government has tens of thousands of institutions and employees in the United States and has been exposed for systematically concealing and harboring scores of individuals who have harmed American citizens, particularly our most vulnerable citizens, children, and has never faced prosecution, sanction, or investigation? Isn’t it time for the US ambassador to the Vatican to start advocating on behalf of American children?
According to figures compiled by dioceses across the United States largely from a confidential study commissioned by the American Bishops and conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, there are just over 6,000 clergy in the US known to have raped or sexually assaulted children over the past several decades. Extrapolating these numbers worldwide, one can conservatively estimate that there are at least 30,000 priests that have sexually assaulted children across the globe.
As far back as 2003, SNAP, The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the nation’s oldest and largest victim’s self-help organization sent a carefully documented white paper and request to the US Department of Justice and top Federal Law enforcement officials, including the US Attorney General, detailing the obvious need for a Federal level investigation and intervention. Other than a brief emergence in the press in 2006, the paper and request were ignored by the DOJ and others.
Since then, governments in Ireland, the Netherlands, Australia and elsewhere have done what US law enforcement and US government officials remain unwilling or unable to do, conduct major investigations into the cover up of sex crimes by church officials and expose what is clearly a global historical system of protection and concealment of clerical predators. Such a system is a clear and present risk to children across the globe. For all the so called reforms the Catholic Church claims to have made concerning clerical abusers, it still operates a separate and dual “justice system” of its own for priest sex crimes, with secret priestly courts and judges, often in direct violation or contradiction of legal and civil codes in civilized nation’s across the world.
According to church law, a priest can rape and sexually assault a child and remain a priest. In what other occupation in civil society working with children and families can a member of its professional class sexually assault a child and remain licensed working in that occupation, much less working with children and families? That is why, sadly, the priesthood may be the most dangerous occupation for children in the world. Not because most priests harm children, but because the rules of the church can be used to protect you if you do harm children, conceal your crimes, transfer you to a new location, and keep you from prosecution by civil authorities.
It is on this last point, the utter lack of US federal law enforcement and prosecution, that the UN Committee on the Rights of Children was addressing in its remarks. It’s a good start. But the UN, and all agencies and governments that are supposedly in existence to protect the rights of citizens across the globe, especially children, need to do much more.
In 2011, and again in 2012, leading human rights attorneys at the Center for Constitutional Justice (CCR) in New York, submitted well over 60,000 pages of evidence to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague requesting that prosecutors launch an investigation into the cover up of childhood sex crimes by top Catholic officials across the globe, focusing their inquiry on those Vatican senior officials, like Pope Benedict, who have direct knowledge and documentation of thousands of cases of known clerics who have assaulted children worldwide.
Aristotle once said that “the good citizen need not of necessity possess the excellence which makes a good man.” For this we can all be grateful. No one expects, or should expect, Catholic officials to possess extraordinary virtue, especially bishops, Cardinals and Popes. What we do expect is for them to obey the laws of basic citizenship concerning child sex crimes and child protection. And when they don’t we most certainly expect, just at the UN is clearly signaling, for the US Justice Department and the US Government to do something about it.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Visit us at SNAPnetwork.org and SNAPwisconsin.com.